1 Tiny House For Homeless Vets Down, 14 To Go

Tiny house

Tiny HousesPlans for the James A. Peterson Veterans Village, a place where homeless veterans can transition out of homelessness, are taking root in Racine .

Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin members Jeff Gustin and Tom Pieske, a number of Racine-area businesses and volunteers have come together to kick off the project, which recently completed its first house.

Now they are raising funds to build 14 more tiny homes.

Veterans Outreach feeds hundreds of area veterans each year through their food pantry, and helps vets furnish and fill their homes once they find housing. Now the group is taking that effort one step further.

“This is an ongoing and active problem in our community,” Pieske said. “No one wants to see people, especially our veterans living on the street… It’s cold out there. Our goal is to have these houses built by November so that these veterans don’t have to sleep outside another winter.”

What the village will include

Gustin and Pieske have been working with the city so that their plans fit within the city’s zoning and planning guidelines. But their project is separate from the veterans housing project the city is doing on the former Walker manufacturing site.

This project includes building 8 by 16-foot homes that feature a loft-style bed, a couch, compost toilet, mini-refrigerator, microwave, cabinet and flat screen television.

The group plans on building 15 tiny homes from scratch in three phases. The first phase will include building five homes and a community center that will have counselors specializing in alcohol and other drug treatment, and mental health issues. The second and third phase will each include adding five more houses. Three homes will be arranged together around a common space, which will include a deck.

The whole project is expected to cost $125,000, which the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin is currently collecting donations to pay for the project.

But many have already begun supporting their effort as Bliffert Lumber and Hardware in Sturtevant and Van’s Electrical Service in Racine have contributed to the project. Because the group has donated their labor, the cost of building the tiny homes is $5,000.

How the village will work

To qualify, participants must have been honorably discharged from the military.

Those veterans who initially come to the community without a job will be able to work for the transitional living community. The location of the tiny home community for homeless veterans has not been finalized, but an offer has been made on a parcel of land within the city.

“The veterans will have a two-year transition with the goal of them having full-time jobs and housing,” Pieske said.

Pinpointing the exact need in the community for the services has been difficult, but judging by the amount of people who come to the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin for food is very clear, Pieske said

Last month the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin food pantry had 180 visitors and served 6,887 pounds of food and the organization helped furnish 36 homes. Pieske and the other members in his group plan to tow the tiny house through the Fourth of July parade, the Racine County Fair and other community-based events.

The hope: To finish the first tiny home sometime next week to show the community what the project is and to help them understand that our veterans are hurting.

“This just needs to be done,” Pieske said. “And someone has got to step-up to do it.”

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Denise Lockwood
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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.