Small City Of 49 Tiny Homes Constructed And Provided To Homeless Veterans As A Safe Space To Live
Dec 02, 2021 by apost team
Since 2015, when a group of combat veterans established the Veterans Community Project (VCP) in Kansas City, Missouri, the nonprofit has helped hundreds of homeless vets get back on their feet by providing transitional housing.
As the organization explains on its website, the VCP fights homelessness with a two-pronged approach. First, they hire veterans to help build a tiny house village. The idea is that free and safe housing helps homeless vets get back on their feet and find a more permanent place to live. Second, the VCP also builds a Veteran Outreach Center, which offers residents a wealth of resources, including financial counseling, employment support and mental health referrals.
“This isn't just an opportunity to get a couple of months and then you're back in an apartment or something like that,” said Wes Williams, the director of Veteran Services at VCP, in an interview with WUNC. “This is really an opportunity for you to take a deep breath, exhale, and learn how to dream again.”
The Kansas City compound features 49 tiny homes as of the summer of 2021, and the organization has plans to build similar enclaves in eight other communities by 2022.
VCP’s plans to expand are largely possible thanks to donations and the press that the project has received in local and national media. It was even featured on Netflix’s popular series “Queer Eye,” and The Kansas City Star reports that politicians would make stops at the site while campaigning. The project has struck a chord with so many in part because of how successful it’s become.
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“When you’re homeless, you learn to keep to yourself. That’s the safest way to go about things… but out here is different,” Marine Corps veteran Christopher Perry said of VCP.
Perry, who spoke with WUNC, joined the Marines and was deployed to Iraq at just 17. While he found success in the military, receiving several promotions, eventually he began to struggle with PTSD and substance use. That led to a demotion and a “bad paper discharge,” setting Perry down a path of “prison, drugs, homelessness, alcohol.”
He told WUNC that while shelters were an option, he didn’t like to live with so many people. Luckily, he found VCP, where he moved into his very own 240-square-foot home.
“That’s like the best thing ever,” Perry told WUNC. “If you go to a homeless shelter, you’re sleeping on stuff, you don’t know who had what, or if it was even washed or how many people slept on that before you got there.”
The idea of providing tiny homes to the homeless is catching on. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, planning director Jason Bieber is working with VCP to build tiny homes in his community.
“I think it was always in the back of our mind as being the dream to partner with them and do one of their villages up here,” Bieber told WUNC. “But (we) never thought that would necessarily be a reality.”
And in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, the county recently built the largest tiny home village in the U.S. to house some of the city’s homeless residents, according to NBC Los Angeles. The Tiny Home Village is set within a 6.8-acre plot in Arroyo Seco Park, and it includes 117 housing units and 224 non-congregate beds to be used as transitional housing.
"The Arroyo Seco Tiny Home Village is all about restoring hope to people whose lives have been shattered into 1 million pieces by homelessness,'' councilmember Kevin de Leon said. "This is a crisis of despair and hopelessness affecting us all. But that's changing and today marks another step toward reversing the pain and suffering to those on our streets who are experiencing it.''
The residences at Arroyo Seco Park are quite expensive at around $55,000 each. That said, officials said that the new development is the least expensive source of homeless housing in the Los Angeles area. YouTube artist Zach Hsieh and a team of other creatives helped to paint the homes. The tiny home development was completed in just 90 days.
"Solving homelessness demands creative and lasting solutions that meet the immediate and critical need for housing today, while giving our unhoused neighbors a path to a permanent place to call home tomorrow,'' Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said of the development.
According to a March 2021 report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the homeless population grew for the fourth consecutive year — and those numbers don’t reflect the pandemic’s impact.
One worrying statistic is that the number of adults living unsheltered and outside, 209,413, exceeded the number of homeless people living in shelters, 199,478, according to NPR.
"The only way to end this crisis is with more long-term and quality housing options,” Mayor Garcetti said.
What do you think about tiny homes for the homeless? How has your community helped unhoused individuals? Let us know — and be sure to spread the word about VCP.