Homeless veterans in the Racine-area will soon have a place to call home.

Five tiny homes were placed on the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin property at 1624 Yout St. Ten more are on the way. The goal: to support 15 homeless veterans on their journey to wellness and stability. The Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin operates the James A. Peterson Veteran Village, community center and food pantry.

Jeff Gustin started the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin after doing volunteer work with other homeless veterans groups in Union Grove. He said the village is named after Peterson, a veteran who volunteered at the shelter. He was killed in 2015 in a hit and run crash.

“Every time I made a call and asked for him to help, he would ask what time and just be there,” Gustin said. “We wanted to show his wife that his kindness meant something to this community.

Tiny Homes, Helping Hand

The project includes building 8 by 16-foot homes that feature a loft-style bed, a couch, and a few personal appliances.

The group plans on building a total of 15 tiny homes from scratch in three phases. The first phase included 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 include adding five more houses. Three homes will be arranged together around a common space, which will include a deck, sidewalk and landscaping.

The homeless veterans can stay on the property for up to two years.

“This means a lot to veterans,” said Ali Nelson, who served as the Racine County Veterans Services Officer from 2011 to 2015. “It’s just huge because these tiny houses will become a place our veterans can call home, a place where they will be taken care of, and feel safe.”

While Gustin helped give life to the project, the community has come out in droves to show its support.

Community Effort

The outpouring of help to complete this project was massive.

SC Johnson gave $25,000. Van’s Electric Service helped install the electrical service and donated their labor. And A.W Oakes & Son provided the staff and equipment to place the homes on the property. The Racine Rotary also gave a $5,000 grant to Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin. EFaucets.com donated thousands of dollars in fixtures for the community center.

“’Homeless’ and ‘veteran’ are words that should never appear together, so when we found out about the VOW’s tiny home village and what they need to build out the community spaces, we called Jeff and asked if we could help,” said Mike Fox, CEO of eFaucets.com. “We reached out to a few of our vendors, and they immediately jumped in to provide the faucets, fixtures and lighting.”

Horlick High School, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and the Illinois Institute of Technology also helped in building four of the five homes that were placed on Thursday.

But it’s also people like James Anderson, a representative from the Regional Council of Carpenters, who volunteered — off and on — over the past year to help with the project. He brought a number of workers to help out on the project.

“You give back because you can and it’s about respecting those who have gave for me,” he said.

The veterans are expected to start using the tiny homes sometime this spring.

 

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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.