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Tiny Home Projects Are Expanding, Offering Homeless Veterans Independence And Security

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In cities nationwide, groups addressing veteran homelessness by replacing the traditional shelter model with tiny homes.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Among veterans homelessness as a problem with many causes and so far few solutions, but in Kansas city, one organization. And so replacing the traditional shelter model with tiny homes, and it's an idea that's spreading across the country. Chris hacks all reports for the American Homefront project. Christopher Perry

Speaker 2: 00:21 Served eight years in the Marine Corps. He saw combat in Iraq and got promoted a few times, but he struggled with what he later learned was PTSD and began abusing drugs and alcohol first, he lost his rank and then his livelihood kicked out with an other than honorable discharge.

Speaker 3: 00:39 When I got out of the military, I just, you know, I, I started losing all my house, my cars, um, you know, stopped being able to visit with my kids. You know, I lost everything.

Speaker 2: 00:51 He describes the next 10 years of his life in four succinct words,

Speaker 3: 00:55 Prison, drugs, homelessness, alcohol.

Speaker 2: 00:59 But about a year ago he found a place called the veterans community project. It's a nonprofit that has built a village for homeless veterans. Literally there are 49 tiny homes laid out like a miniature suburban neighborhood. Each one about the size of a typical hotel room.

Speaker 4: 01:16 So this house is just finished. Getting, getting repaired from a guy, moving out and, uh, has been staged for a bit to move in. Next week.

Speaker 2: 01:27 West Williams is the director of veteran

Speaker 4: 01:29 Services here, as you'll see every one of these is fully stocked with plates and cups and silverware. And, um, we'll have about two weeks of groceries when they move in.

Speaker 2: 01:44 This is no shelter. The towels and bedding are brand new and they belong to the resident forever.

Speaker 4: 01:51 The independence of not sharing a room with, with five or six or 50 people, um, really adds to that security and that, that peace of mind. And knowing that like when I'm here, I'm safe.

Speaker 2: 02:03 William says the idea is to give residents a sense of ownership and dignity. But as a combat veteran himself, he knows many of the residents have experienced trauma. So the homes are designed from the ground up with security in mind.

Speaker 4: 02:19 There's one way in, and one way out in the bed is here in the back corner and that's that's designed. So if, if they're laying down here in their bed, they don't have to worry about somebody sneaking up behind them.

Speaker 2: 02:30 The village also has a community center and there are plans to build a campus to house other veteran service organizations, uh, sorta one-stop shop for veterans who may lack reliable transportation. Other cities have taken note in Sioux falls, South Dakota planning director, Jason Bieber's saw veterans community project as a model. When that city started thinking about where to house its homeless vets, they reached out and ended up becoming partners.

Speaker 5: 02:57 I mean, I think it was always in our back room of mind as being the dream to partner with them and do one of their villages up here. But you know, never thought that that maybe would, would necessarily be a reality.

Speaker 2: 03:08 They've identified a plot of land and hope to break ground. Soon back in Kansas city, Marine Corps veteran, Christopher Perry is getting his life back together. He's enrolled in community college and plans to move out soon. Eventually he wants to get licensed as a truck driver.

Speaker 3: 03:25 Was it an amazing feeling, man? Um, when, when all those little tiny burdens are lifted off your shoulders, it really puts your head in a space man, where you, you can actually move forward instead of worrying about, you know, where, where you're not going to go. What's behind you.

Speaker 2: 03:42 In addition to Sioux falls, veterans community project has tiny villages plant in St. Louis and Longmont, Colorado. William says the group wants villages in eight cities by the end of next year, I'm Chris axle in Kansas city.

Speaker 1: 03:57 This story was produced by the American Homefront project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting.

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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.