The James A. Peterson Veteran Village project received a unanimous approval from the Racine Plan Commission at a meeting held Wednesday night.

Officials with the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin plan to house the James A. Peterson Veteran Village, a community center and food pantry at 1624 Yout St. The group hopes to close on the building in November. 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 with the veterans’ village.

“We are pleased to be working with a city that values its veterans as much as our organization does,” said Jeff Gustin, executive director of the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin. “Tonight was a great step forward in ending veteran homelessness in our area.”

First Phase Funding Completed

Plans include building 15 tiny homes from scratch in three phases. The first phase includes 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 organization reached its goal to raise $100,000 for the first phase of its James A. Patterson Veterans Village project and has a good start on its second phase funding thanks to a $25,000 donation from SC Johnson. The Racine-based household products manufacturer handed a check over to officials from the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin on Monday night. The money will defray the costs associated with rehabbing the building on the property.

“Respect for the military and honoring our veterans’ service has been part of SC Johnson’s family company heritage for many years,” said Kelly M. Semrau, senior vice president of global corporate affairs, communication and sustainability at SC Johnson. “We’re proud to be part of an effort that will help lead veterans to a path to self-sustainability.”

The community center will take on the SC Johnson name. The building will have a full kitchen, bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities.

“Having a company like SC Johnson back your project is a big deal,” Gustin said. “This will likely influence other donors. It helps to see a company of that caliber supporting your program.”

What’s Next for the Veterans’ Village

Three homes have already been built and four are partially built.

The group plans to work with a number of area groups to complete the work, including Horlick High School, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Students at Horlick High School will work on finishing the interior of the home. If that goes well, then they’ll take on another home.

“They want to do a whole unit,” Gustin said. “It’s one of those things that for years to come these students will drive by and say they helped build that.”

While the project received a preliminary nod from the City Plan Commission, it’ll still need to final approval from the Racine Common Council.

“I think it’s going to go smoothly,” Gustin said. “The support we’ve had is phenomenal.”



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