In 2017, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported 555,742 people across the U.S. were experiencing homelessness on a single night. Of those individuals, 40,056 were veterans of the United States Military. That means veterans make up 9% of the country’s entire homeless population. (1)
Homelessness in America is a crisis met with a number of programs for aid. Shelters, safe havens, and charity efforts offer supplemental relief in most major cities. Government programs sponsor some homeless recovery, such as the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). However, the provisions under these programs rarely present a permanent, sustainable solution to meet the needs of these men and women. Thankfully, members of our own communities are stepping up to make greater changes in the lives of homeless veterans.
Tiny Homes Offer a New Start to Homeless Veterans
US Army Corporal Chris Stout took a serious look around him after returning home from Afghanistan with an injury. He found work assisting other veterans that suffered from homelessness, and saw much of what the system lacked. In 2015, he founded the Veterans Community Project to make affect real change.
His organization started with projects like procuring free bus passes for homeless veterans in Kansas City. Next, they decided to tackle a greater issue. Where could these veterans go after they got off the bus? You might be surprised at its simplicity: Stout gave homes to the homeless veterans of Kansas City. Tiny homes, to be exact. In January of 2019, the VCP completed the first 13 units in a new community made specifically for the homeless veterans of Kansas city. By the end of 2019, they aim to have 50 homes altogether.
Each home is complete with a full kitchen, bathroom, a sleeping space, and household supplies. The homes themselves give residents the opportunity to learn skills like maintaining their own home, cooking, and living with neighbors. The community also provides access to medical, dental, and other essential services. What’s more, though, is the units provide privacy and a sense of ownership to the tenants. These are all essential provisions homeless individuals are stripped of on the streets and in shelters. This basic form of housing gives these individuals something shelters and handouts never could. With a private roof over their heads, these individuals regain their basic humanity. Stout found this to be their greatest ally when trying to rebuild their lives.
Overall, the tiny home project has been a success. Stout was pleased to inform CNN that 8 of the original 13 residents have already moved out of the community into permanent housing. (2) The VCP plans to have a total of 50 homes built by the end of 2019. We can only imagine the successful results will experience similar growth in the meantime.
A Small Solution to a Big Problem
Stouts’ tiny home project is a great start for homeless veterans. In fact, the VA reported a 5.4% decrease in 2018 from the previous year. (3) Perhaps we can thank efforts like those of the VCP for this positive change. In fact, the rest of the country may do well to follow suit with other homeless demographics.
Experts estimate that the average yearly taxpayer cost of supporting a homeless individual on the street is anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000. This is due to the higher use of publicly funded jails, hospitalizations, and emergency departments often used by unsheltered homeless. Compare this to the average cost of a single tiny home, which is barely over $10,000 in most cases. Once situated in supportive housing, homeless individuals are less likely to find themselves in crisis. Therefore, they are less frequently in need of expensive public services. In fact, experts estimate that it is around 49% cheaper to provide housing to the homeless than leaving them on the streets. (4, 5,6)
People like Stouts have proven supportive housing to be more effective in reversing homelessness. It is also an economically superior option for homeless relief. Homeless veterans are fortunate to have new starts becoming available to them like these tiny homes. With luck and some hard work, we can hope for a similar change to be made across the country.
To donate, visit VeteransCommunityProject.org.