Jeramey Jannene

A New Plan For Tiny Homes

With a new design and developer for project to support homeless veterans.

By - Feb 12th, 2024 04:31 pm
Veterans Community Project Tiny Home Community for 6767 N. 60th St. Rendering by Finkle + Williams Architecture.

Veterans Community Project Tiny Home Community for 6767 N. 60th St. Rendering by Finkle + Williams Architecture.

The new developer of a planned tiny homes community for military veterans facing homelessness is advancing a rezoning request that would allow the long-sought proposal to proceed.

Racine-based Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin (VOW) first announced the project in 2019, securing a zoning change for a two-phase proposal to be built on a vacant, city-owned site at 6767 N. 60th St., just south of W. Green Tree Road. But the nonprofit organization didn’t proceed with the project.

“It was an all hands on deck approach to find someone who could bring this project to fruition,” said Department of City Development planning manager Sam Leichtling, explaining to the City Plan Commission what happened when VOW decided it couldn’t advance the project.

Missouri-based Veterans Community Project (VCP), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, then stepped in, and was announced as a replacement in 2022. A fundraising campaign was launched last year.

VCP national expansion director Ben Hendershot said the organization would develop a 40-home campus. It would attempt not only to house veterans and their families, but also to bridge the gap between living in shelters and moving into permanent housing by providing education and other wraparound services.

The homes would be approximately 240 square feet each. Eight units supporting families would be built at a size of up to 340 square feet each. Hendershot said the family dynamics vary, from traditional four-person families to an individual with a child part-time, but that the larger units can accommodate up to five people.

“Housing with dignity is very, very important to us,” said Hendershot. “But most importantly, we have the wraparound services in our organization to help not just with housing itself, but with the issues that got them there in the first place.”

VCP was founded in 2016 in Kansas City by a group of veterans. “We quickly found that there is a disconnect between shelters and permanent housing solutions. Some of the reason people fall back into homelessness is that they may not be ready for the next step,” said Hendershot.

The organization estimates there are approximately 33,000 homeless veterans in the United States, with 300 in Milwaukee alone. VCP operates facilities in Missouri, Colorado and South Dakota.

The nonprofit, said Hendershot, focuses on maintaining a 10-to-1 ratio of residents to staff members. It works to connect residents with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and other service providers.

“Our goal is to complement, not compete,” said Hendershot of how the organization would provide services to residents. “The goal is always ensure that a veteran gets that service; there are several different paths to get there.” The organization reports that 85% of its residents end up in permanent housing after living in a village for an average of 11 months.

Each house would include a covered porch, a first for VCP. It reflects local input on the design, said Hendershot, and understanding tenant desires from other developments.

“It definitely reflects the Milwaukee style,” said commission chair Stephanie Bloomingdale. “It’s something we like to see.”

The project would be developed in five phases. The first phase would include site preparation. The second phase would include the community center, and the third a cluster of 20 homes. The fourth phase would include an additional 20-unit housing cluster to the west, separated from the first by a surface parking lot. The final phase would include an expansion of the community center.

Hendershot said the project is phased to allow portions to proceed before all fundraising is completed. Construction could begin this year.

“Every dollar raised here in Milwaukee stays in Milwaukee,” said Hendershot of the fundraising strategy. “It’s important for us to ensure that it is Milwaukee’s project.”

Commissioner Allyson Nemec, an architect, questioned the lack of “third spaces” in the development. Third spaces are places for social interaction outside of home or work. She also highlighted the one-way layout of the parking lot and roadways, and how it could contribute to potential isolation. “It seems like a lot of path.”

VOW’s 2019 plan called for the homes to encircle a central community center. VCP’s plan puts the houses to the west, with the community center to the east along N. 60th Street.

Hendershot said the latest layout reflected a strategy VCP had used with success elsewhere and that the community center provided a variety of gathering spaces. He said the small footprint of the structures made it tough to compare to a standard neighborhood.

Nemec suggested adding a playground or indoor fitness facility. VCP representatives said those amenities could be added through future fundraising efforts.

The project drew support from new area Alderwoman Larresa Taylor.

“I am extremely excited,” said Taylor. ‘I think they’re going to bring not only great value to our veterans, but our neighbors as well.”

Taylor said she is a veteran. “I really believe in the project,” said the alderwoman, first elected in 2023. Taylor replaced Chantia Lewis, a U.S. Air Force veteran.

The commission unanimously recommended approval of the rezoning request, which now goes to the full Common Council. Tarik Moody, a former member of the Army Reserves, abstained as he is a member of the capital campaign.

VOW bought the site for $35,000 in 2021 with the backing of Milwaukee Tool. The property would be conveyed to VCP as part of the development.


2019 Renderings and Architectural Layout

2019 Site Plans

2021 Site Photos

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Related Legislation: File 231294

Categories: Real Estate

4 thoughts on “A New Plan For Tiny Homes”

  1. ZeeManMke says:

    Our veterans surely could use our help. As a former veteran, Alderwoman Taylor should be the perfect person to help these needy people enjoy these tiny homes and find their ways to better things.

  2. Jhenry1131 says:

    Love this idea. Oshkosh has a tiny home community for homeless families along these same lines. My only concern is the steps getting to the upper floor bedroom as many homeless vets are elderly and disabled, but this is a great start!

  3. Colin says:

    Henry, those are the old 2019 designs with those steps. Thankfully those designs appear to’ve been thrown in the bin.
    Thank goodness, no need for impractical / weird designs.
    The new ones are much more traditional and only one story. They look more similar to those finished sheds/homes one can buy for $10k-30k a pop depending on size and finish.
    As the article says.. housing with dignity is important, sure it’s not space efficient or cheap as an apartment building, but providing vets a dedicated space for just themselves is a huge step in the right direction.
    For those who think the sqft is too small, in previous developments where these have been done – the response has always been tremendously positive. At their ages and mental health, one doesn’t want a HUGE house to clean and maintain. And there are shared resources / centers to provide additional things (central hangout areas, recreation, etc) not possible to be built into every single home.

  4. Jhenry1131 says:

    @Colin Thanks for the update. I totally agree that these are the perfect size and will provide the privacy and dignity everyone should have in their living space. Can’t wait to see the final result!

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