For anyone that has followed my writing for the past two years or so or anyone that read my chapter in last summer’s bestselling Turning Tiny, you already know that I am not a fan of using tiny houses as a way of placating a problem. I don’t think you should throw tiny houses of any sort at a homeless population just to keep them from constructing a tent city. I am not a fan of using tiny houses to keep veterans at bay and out of sight. Tiny houses aren’t logical halfway houses or anything of the sort. In fact, I think tiny houses when used as a solution and not part of a rehabilitation system, are nothing more than a cheap marketing ploy used by municipalities to show how much they are doing to handle this or that. They are a hot topic right now so they seem to be a great band wagon to jump on and right out the parade on. Every once in a while I’ll be surprised though and a situation will make itself known that uses tiny houses in an appropriate way as part of a bigger plan. Such is the case, I believe, with the Veterans Community Project in Missouri.
Their vision is simple: To fulfill the needs of veterans. What many Americans don’t understand or fail to acknowledge is that military veterans make up a remarkably large segment of our nation’s homeless population. The effects of war are lasting and anyone who has served the United States Armed Forces in the past 13 years, war has been a harsh reality of their service. A number of soldiers return to the states unable to find a job in the overly saturated job market of the United States. Some suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or something similar. Even more come home to find life in our advanced nation isn’t what they remember it and they are unable to successfully re-enter society. This, of course, doesn’t even touch on the number of soldiers who come home with some form of physical disability be it a lost limb, severe burns, long-term vision or hearing problems, and the list goes on! It is truly a national disgrace that men and women who have served to protect us – our way of life – in times of war (and peace) should be thrust from the throws of modern society, denied basic healthcare, and left to fend for themselves. Veterans Community Project has seen enough in has seen enough and founders Chris Stout, Kevin Jamison, Bryan Meyer, and Brandonn Mixon, are doing something about it.
Working on a site of about four acres known as Veterans Village, they are constructing fifty tiny houses (and a community center) that will serve at least as many homeless vets. VCP doesn’t stop there though. The project goes beyond the roof of a tiny house and also offers peer counseling and job training as a way to help reintegrate veterans back into society. Each house is 240 sq.ft. and is being built by volunteers and with donations from business and private individuals. The project is still very much under construction with a ground breaking in 2015 and a plan to be complete and ready for residents by winter 2017.
In contrast to traditional homeless services such as a shelter or even a hospital, VCP believes a tiny home provides the veteran privacy, a sense of ownership, and the ability to reintegrate at a comfortable pace. In addition, all services, housing, food, and utilities will be provided at no cost to the veteran for a brief period of time. Eventually the veteran will take over financial responsibility for living at Veteran’s Village before then making the transition into their own permanent housing solution. And so herein lies my endorsement.
I don’t believe in handouts and I don’t believe in the lack of accountability. Veterans Community Project is a stepping stone (albeit a very firm one) to men and women who has sacrificed the comforts their service afforded me, yet are met with contempt on a number of levels. VCP is using the idea of private, well built, tiny homes, to give a veteran a place to live and discover himself again, so he can re-enter the broader community and begin serving again; humanity and humility in tact!
Are you aware of the Veterans Community Project or others like it? Is there something happening in your area to help these men and women? What are your thoughts on tiny houses for specific causes? Let us know in the comment area below.