Racine to build tiny homes for homeless veterans

Posted at 11:46 AM, Apr 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-19 13:44:54-04

An effort underway in Racine is hoping to end homelessness among the community’s military veterans.

Jeff Gustin, of Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin, said his organization is hoping to build 15 “tiny houses” that vets who are homeless can move into while getting back on their feet.

Gustin said the group is still identifying a property for the project, which will likely be located near downtown Racine. The first tiny house being constructed is about 80 percent complete, he said.

According to Gustin, the total cost of the project will be in the neighborhood of $125,000. That includes the purchase of the land as well as the building of the tiny houses and a community area/center with gathering space, a cafeteria and showers.

“Nobody should be homeless in our country,” Gustin said. “Especially not someone who put on a uniform to serve our country.”

Gustin said Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin is currently raising money for the project. He said each tiny house costs about $5,000 to build with donated materials and labor. Gustin said the goal is to have five of them finished in time for winter.

Tim Shea, of Van’s Electric in Racine, is donating his time to help out with the construction. Shea said he’s a veteran himself, having served in the U.S. Marines.

“It’s a great feeling. When I was young and in the service people took care of me,” Shea said. “So now it’s my turn to give back and help others.”

Racine Mayor John Dickert said he’s only aware of two homeless veterans in the city.

But he said the 15 tiny homes, when completed, can help house homeless veterans from around the county. Dickert said many such vets pass through the community while traveling between temporary accommodations in Milwaukee and Chicago.

“This is a project that helps us with the transitional veterans, the ones that are moving around and not settling down somewhere,” Dickert said.

“We send these people off to war and then, often, we almost forget about them when they come back home,” the mayor said. “They’ve served us. Now it’s our time to serve them.”

Gustin said the goal is for veterans who move into the tiny houses to stay there for up to two years. They’ll be paired up with resources like financial advice, access to their veterans’ benefits, and even alcohol or drug addiction counseling when needed.

“We're going to bring everything to the grounds to help them in any way they may need,” he said.

Gustin said the goal is for the veterans to eventually move out with stable jobs and into homes of their own.