A New Plan For Tiny Homes
With a new design and developer for project to support homeless veterans.
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
If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.
Related Legislation: File 231294
- A New Plan For Tiny Homes - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 12th, 2024
- Eyes on Milwaukee: New Group Takes Over Veterans’ Tiny Houses Project - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 16th, 2022
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Tiny Homes Village Plan Moves Forward - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 12th, 2021
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Mayor Signs Homeless Proposal on Veterans Day - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 11th, 2019
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Full Council Approves Tiny Homes Project - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 5th, 2019
- Eyes on Milwaukee: 48 Tiny Homes for Veterans - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 30th, 2019
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Tiny Homes Land Sale Approved - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 18th, 2019
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Project Creates Tiny Homes for Veterans - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 31st, 2019
Read more about Veterans Tiny Homes here