Now that the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin has bought the empty Teamsters building at 1624 Yout St. to house the James A. Peterson Veteran Village, a flurry of activity has begun on the property.

Jeff Gustin, executive director of the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin, picked up the building permit Wednesday morning and already the hammers have started swinging. By mid-morning workers painted the front rooms with white paint and installed phone lines. The goal: Help homeless veterans by helping them get back on their feet.

Veterans Village To Open This Winter

But now it’s Gustin that needs the help with the demolition work, cleaning up the grounds and construction.

“We’re shooting for January 1, but that’s probably unrealistic,” Gustin said.

He’s hesitant put out a firm date because there’s a lot of work yet to be done on the building: bathrooms and showers to build out, electrical work to be done, and cement to be poured for the tiny homes to be placed. They don’t want to accept any applications until they can actually have people living on the site.

“This is going to be their home, a place for them to socialize and get the support they need,” he said.

Program To Focus On Education, Support

Plans include building 15 tiny homes from scratch in three phases. The first 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.

But the Veteran Village is going to be more than just a place to live, it’s going to be a self-contained support system and program that homeless veterans will need to make a commitment to doing.

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.

Volunteers Needed

Most of those needing services are Vietnam War veterans, Gustin said.

“Everything that helped them cope — being married, working, having children — a lot of that is gone now,” he said. “They are retired, their grand kids are older, and their spouses have died. Now they have time to think and Vietnam is coming back to them and it’s causing problems.”

Matthew Vachalik, a VOW board member, started installing phone and cable lines in the building on Wednesday because he works for AT&T.

“This was important after I learned about the issue because people had discussions with me and I learned that there’s just not enough being done for our vets,” he said.

Volunteers are needed for cleaning up the grounds, demolition work and construction. If you’d like to help, email the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin at veteransoutreachofwisconsin@gmail.com or call them at (262) 221-8350.

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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.