Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) has approved the development of a village of free tiny houses for the city's homeless veterans, ABC News reports.
According to the publication, Barrett approved a zoning file authorizing the development of seven acres of land on Monday. Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin — a nonprofit that works to provide housing and assistance to homeless veterans — is spearheading the initiative.
The village will be the second of its kind developed by the nonprofit, which began as a food pantry in 2013 before expanding its operations to include such housing projects in 2016.
The design for the Milwaukee village, which is set to open next summer, will be based on the group's first veterans village that opened in 2017 in Racine, Wis., Barrett said.
Fiona Murphy, who serves as the nonprofit’s director of development, told The Hill that the group’s village in Racine contains 15 homes, each of them 120 square feet in size.
The village also includes a community center for veterans, which she said features “a gourmet kitchen, entertainment spaces and a meeting space for weekly wraparound services like financial literacy classes, meditation, yoga, guitar lessons, AA meetings, crafting events, Bible study and more.”
Murphy said the shared center includes private shower rooms, bathrooms and laundry facilities. The group also runs a food pantry in the community that feeds nearly 400 veterans and their dependents.
Murphy said that since the Racine community opened two years ago, the group has graduated nine veterans from what she called the nonprofit’s “homeless recovery program to more traditional housing of their own."
“Successful graduation, to us, revolves around breaking the cycle of being even a few paychecks away from homeless,” she said. “Veterans may come to us from living on the streets, but ... in one to two years [they have] healthy bank accounts, jobs, improved credit scores, soft skills, health and wellness habits and more.”
The nonprofit will be building 42 homes in the new village in Milwaukee. Murphy said each of the homes will be 220 square feet and have a toilet and sink. Similar to the village in Racine, the Milwaukee community will also have a shared center, which will be 10,000 square feet and include private showers, a kitchen and recreational activities for veterans to partake in.
The new veterans village in Milwaukee will be named after local Medal of Honor recipient Gary G. Wetzel.
Murphy said the group, which is totally community-funded, focused on tiny homes in particular because the structures “are a fantastic fit in a trauma-informed care model of recovery.”
“They allow independence and privacy while encouraging the connection with others that is vital to recovery through the shared community center space,” she said.
"We believe in housing veterans with dignity and meeting them at their moments of greatest vulnerability to restore them to the productive lives they deserve," she added.
According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, roughly 4,900 people in Wisconsin were experiencing homelessness in January 2018. More than 300 of those people were veterans.