RACINE — 53-year-old John Grube spoke with TMJ4 News about battling chronic homelessness as he played with his beloved service dog. Both live in a tiny home at the James A. Peterson Veteran Village in Racine.
"This last time I spent four years living under a tarp behind buildings and parks wherever I could find. I spent eight years in the streets under a tarp and six years in a vehicle," said Grube.
Grube admits shelters were not for him.
"I had street outreach teams literally with tears in their eyes begging me to let them take me to a shelter in 4 feet of snow and negative 2 degrees in the forecast," said Grube.
The Army veteran is learning to deal with the past trauma of child abuse.
"I really have no contact with my family. I've always just done things on my own," said Grube.
Reaching out to former military men and women like Grube is an important mission for the staff of the VeteransOutreach of Wisconsin. Jeff Gustin founded the tiny homes. He began by collecting food and furniture in 2013.
"We wanted to make it the best experience that we could," said Gustin."It's a dignity thing, its hard enough to ask for help we didn't want it to be a bad experience when they finally did walk through the door. I value my freedom. I wouldn't have it if it weren't for our veterans and our active-duty military right now."
Racine County Executive John Delagrave said the Veteran Village and tiny homes enjoy bipartisan support.
"We've seen individuals from both sides wanting to take a tour. Both sides understood wholeheartedly the sacrifices these individuals have made. It's easy to get on board knowing our freedoms are because of those individuals," said Delagrave.
"Selfishly from the county's standpoint we are only as strong as our outreach and faith based initiatives. The better Veterans Village and tiny homes do the better the county does," said Delagrave.
Fiona Murphy is the Director of Development.
"I'm proud of the Racine community because we were really the first in the nation to present this idea about housing our veterans in tiny houses," said Murphy. "Everything you see from the over 400 Veterans a week we see in our Veterans market to the 15 tiny homes, and all the wraparound services, those are things the community supports and I'm very proud of that."
John Grube is a reminder that we all have a duty to look out for those who took the oath to serve.
Grube hopes to eventually help other veterans get back on their feet and is looking forward to his independence
Grube admits, "I would still be on the streets right now if it weren't for the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin."