Thirteen homeless veterans got a look Monday at the furnished tiny houses in Kansas City that they will call home for the next six to 12 months.
The Veterans Community Project also got a chance to show the public the first phase of the “Veterans Village” taking shape at 89th Street and Troost Avenue.
“Today is a momentous day for me,” said Marvin Gregory, a veteran of the Army National Guard and the Coast Guard. “I’m very happy. These guys have been great. Now I’m going to have my own house and my own keys.”
Michael Koch, a Marine veteran, was also emotional.
“This this is a blessed day for me,” he said. “I can’t wait to see my new home.”
Both veterans were cheered by a crowd of more than 100 people who braved a cold morning for a ceremonial ribbon cutting.
Tiny houses are just what they sound like. The 240-square-foot homes are furnished with a kitchen, bed and climate control. The veterans pay no rent or utilities and can stay six months or a year. It’s flexible and customized to each veteran’s needs.
“They have to be making progress, but they don’t have to jump through arbitrary hoops,” said Mark Solomon, a co-founder of the Veterans Community Project. “We gave them a house outfitted with everything, basically. As they go along, if they need to replace things, that’s on them. We’re going to teach them how to budget, how to plan in advance, grocery shop, cook, all those kinds of things.”
The vets will also have access to a high-speed computer lab and other assistance.
The Veterans Community Project is a not-for-profit that relies on private donations. The CommunityAmerica Foundation on Monday announced a $125,000 gift.
Eventually, the group hopes to erect 50 tiny houses on land acquired from the Land Bank of Kansas City.
“Two years ago they started with $500 and a vision,” said Kansas City Mayor Sly James, a Marine veteran. “This project not only provides veterans with a roof over their head but also with resources and the support that they need to get on their feet.”
Co-founder Chris Stout said he and his colleagues wanted to serve those who have served us.
“On any given night in Kansas City there are 130 to 200 homeless veterans who sleep on the streets, in the cold, under bridges, in the woods,” Stout said. “These are the people who took the oath and were willing to die to defend our Constitution of the United States of America. ... We are providing housing with dignity.”