CITY HALL – “Coming soon to #STL… a new tiny house village for homeless veterans, including 50 units, a walk-up clinic & community center.”
That’s how Mayor Lyda Krewson tweeted out her excitement about the city’s partnership with the Veterans Community Project to build 50 tiny houses for homeless veterans here.
The nonprofit, founded and run by combat veterans, is based in Kansas City and is funded largely by private donations. A village of the tiny homes is already operating there.
The move to expand the project to St. Louis was spearheaded by former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, himself a veteran. He now leads the organization’s national expansion efforts; in addition to St. Louis, the group hopes to expand to seven more locations around the country by 2022.
Missouri Sen. Jamilah Nasheed also helped the St. Louis effort, by gaining a little financial backing from the state of Missouri.
The houses here will be on about a block and a half of Aldine Avenue just west of the John Cochran Veterans Administration hospital at 915 N Grand Boulevard. The area of the project actually lies in three of the city’s wards: Ward 19, Alderwoman Marlene Davis; Ward 18, Alderman Jesse Todd; and a sliver in Ward 4, Alderwoman Dwinderlin Evans. Krewson praised all three for their support of the project.
The veterans group bought the property from the city at “a very nominal cost,” Krewson said. Thirty-one parcels were owned by the Land Reutilization Authority and one by the city’s comptroller’s office – a “not unusual” situation, the mayor noted. But because of that parcel, the transfer of ownership had to go through the Board of Aldermen, which it did on Tuesday through Board Bill 94. The price for that property, at 3724 Aldine, was $250.
Ground will be broken on the project in “about a week,” Krewson promised. “We are very excited about this partnership.”
In Kansas City, where the veterans group started, the development offers “very attractive, very tiny houses, in all different colors. It’s a very inviting, very homey place for homeless veterans,” Krewson said.
“As I have often said,” the mayor went on, “there is no way for any of us, or anyone, to get their life back together from the sidewalk. You simply have to have a place, a permanent place, where you know you’re going to be every night.”
The tiny houses aren’t, however, designed as long-term permanent homes, the group notes; they’re more long-term transitional housing “to get homeless veterans off the street and transition them to permanent housing. In contrast to traditional homeless services, a tiny home provides the veteran with privacy, a sense of security, and the ability to reintegrate at a comfortable pace.” A spokesman for the group said the average stay in a tiny home was 275 days.
Krewson acknowledged the debt all Americans have toward our veterans and said the new houses would help them.
“I think it’s the least we can do, frankly,” she said. “It’s really terrific. I’m so happy to see that happen.”
She noted that “most of the heavy lifting” in the project would be done by the nonprofit.
The project on Aldine will comprise 50 houses, each with one resident, and will be built in three phases.