Tiny homes for homeless veterans

Veterans in Kansas City have built a tiny home community to help fellow vets get off the streets and on the path to a better life.

Posted: Feb 15, 2018 6:46 PM
Updated: Feb 15, 2018 6:46 PM

Marvin Gregory is a large man living in a tiny home. And he couldn't be happier.

"I just want to be in here and absorb it all," he says.

The 6-foot-5-inch US Army and Coast Guard veteran moved in to his new 240 square foot home in Kansas City last week after spending more than six years on the streets, homeless and struggling to find a place to sleep every night.

"Doors are closed for you when you're a little older and people don't think you have the goods to work and make it happen," says the 50-year old father of seven. "It's rough. They have some places. But the shelters are pretty much full and it's hard finding shelter in [Kansas City]."

Gregory's new home is one of 13 tiny houses built by Veterans Community Project, a nonprofit organization started by fellow veterans focused on helping homeless vets get housing and services to help them be self-sufficient.

"We're pulling these guys out of the trenches in their battle and saving their lives because they would have done the exact same for us," explains Brandon Mixon, one of Veterans Community Project's co-founders and a retired Army specialist. "They could have been that guy that saved my life in Afghanistan or pulled me to safety."

'Guys were getting lost'

Two years ago, while working with various nonprofits in the Kansas City area, Mixon and fellow veterans Chris Stout and Bryan Meyer were frustrated at the difficulty many veterans had getting services in the city.

"Everybody was defined differently, whether it was where they served, how long they served, what conflict they served in, their discharge status," says Stout, a retired Army corporal and Veterans Community Project's CEO. "It was a mix of many different reasons as to why veteran organizations were not serving them or where they would serve them. Guys were getting lost in that."

The three men decided they wanted to create a central place where every veteran, regardless of time spent in the military, could get help.

"I don't care if they served a day in the military or 30 years, dishonorable discharged or honorable discharged. At the end of the day, they are still my brother and sister and they took the oath to serve us," says Mixon.

'They need their own space'

One of the first services Veterans Community Project provided to vets in need was a program that offered free rides on city public buses. Stout says that made a huge difference for many veterans, but they still had nowhere to go when the buses dropped them off at the end of the day.

They began to brainstorm about housing solutions for people coming to them for help. Their first idea: Rehab an abandoned school.

"After talking to some of the homeless vets, we realized they refused to go into that communal living," says Stout. "They were like, 'you know we're not going into that shelter living.' The consensus was they need their own space."

Someone suggested building tiny houses.

"I said, 'what the hell is a tiny house,'" jokes Stout.

After doing some research, he knew small-scale houses built close to each other would be the most feasible option for achieving their goal.

"It's kind of like that barracks mentality ... so they can be there to support each other and we can support them," he says.

Stout and his partners' mission was to build 50 tiny houses and a large community center on a few acres of land they had bought in south Kansas City, and do it in six months. But city officials had other ideas.

"[The city] did not want another trailer park," says Stout.

'Catchy, sexy, cool'

For several months, Stout and his colleagues worked with city planning officials to make sure the community would be safe, have all proper utilities and access for emergency services.

"It's a trick to build a house to code at that size," he says. "But it's just like a traditional house, they're just smaller. We want to put them in something that I'd be willing to work with."

Last month, in subfreezing temperatures, Veterans Community Project and volunteers worked tirelessly seven days a week to build the first 13 homes for veterans (11 men and two women) they had chosen to be the community's first residents. One of them: Marvin Gregory.

"It's overwhelming at times because I've been in so many negative situations and doors closed in my face," says Gregory. "These guys are going to give me my own place and it's going to give me a start to move higher and get myself in a position to hopefully one day buy my own home."

Mixon says when residents do eventually transition out of the community, they can take all of the items out of their tiny home with them. But, he stresses, Veterans Community Project's main mission is not to just provide a roof, couch or refrigerator.

"The tiny houses are the very smallest minute piece," he says. "They are the catchy, sexy, cool piece. But what we actually provide are services like free health care, dental care, veterinary services, and help finding work." He and his partners strongly believe that is the best thing they can do for their "brothers and sisters."

Veterans Community Project's founders says interest in the project has already come from hundreds of communities across the country. They've begun work with the city of Nashville to replicate the tiny home community in the Music City.

For Gregory, his new home leaves him speechless.

"Words can't describe it. God has looked down on me and my fellow military buddies came and rescued me. Never leave a man behind."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 698692

Reported Deaths: 13148
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion953091706
Lake50868931
Allen38607670
Hamilton34028404
St. Joseph33404537
Elkhart26868431
Vanderburgh21948393
Tippecanoe21483212
Johnson17346371
Porter17059297
Hendricks16638309
Clark12600190
Madison12239335
Vigo12109243
Monroe11253166
LaPorte10639204
Delaware10251183
Howard9572211
Kosciusko9009112
Hancock7866139
Bartholomew7807153
Warrick7660155
Floyd7509175
Wayne6849196
Grant6732167
Boone648199
Morgan6341137
Dubois6054117
Marshall5720108
Cass5658102
Dearborn565275
Henry5545100
Noble534983
Jackson489869
Shelby474495
Lawrence4304118
Gibson425788
Harrison425370
Montgomery414686
Clinton413953
DeKalb404183
Huntington373180
Whitley372639
Miami369965
Knox363889
Steuben359657
Putnam350760
Wabash344977
Jasper342246
Adams336852
Ripley332668
Jefferson306779
White306054
Daviess288199
Wells283680
Decatur278092
Fayette276762
Greene268785
Posey267533
Scott258753
Clay250944
LaGrange249670
Randolph233679
Washington228929
Spencer227231
Jennings224347
Fountain207245
Sullivan207241
Starke199452
Owen191056
Fulton189139
Jay184829
Carroll184520
Perry178536
Orange175852
Rush169424
Vermillion165543
Franklin164835
Tipton160743
Parke143516
Blackford132130
Pike129634
Pulaski112445
Newton102434
Brown98940
Crawford96814
Benton94913
Martin82115
Warren78715
Switzerland7688
Union69510
Ohio55411
Unassigned0405

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1039455

Reported Deaths: 18827
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1205361345
Cuyahoga1051802040
Hamilton774991164
Montgomery49566984
Summit44613904
Lucas39235757
Butler37466566
Stark31150890
Lorain23831467
Warren23725291
Mahoning20653581
Lake19760360
Clermont19325226
Delaware17811130
Licking15996205
Fairfield15520195
Trumbull15412458
Medina14693255
Greene14510233
Clark13455287
Wood12575182
Portage12183193
Allen11225229
Richland10924197
Miami10470211
Muskingum8653127
Columbiana8482225
Wayne8463209
Pickaway8394120
Tuscarawas8317239
Marion8302135
Erie7434153
Ross6650145
Hancock6608123
Geauga6462146
Ashtabula6374163
Scioto625699
Belmont5523158
Union551747
Lawrence5439102
Huron5237112
Darke5229121
Jefferson5223147
Sandusky5096118
Seneca5050118
Washington5031107
Athens494854
Auglaize470684
Mercer467984
Shelby453489
Knox4339108
Madison417957
Putnam417698
Ashland409186
Fulton402565
Defiance396396
Brown383955
Crawford3827100
Logan370076
Preble368295
Clinton357459
Ottawa352278
Highland345058
Williams318274
Champaign317355
Jackson305051
Guernsey303448
Perry286949
Fayette276348
Morrow272639
Henry261866
Hardin261163
Coshocton256057
Holmes251799
Van Wert237562
Gallia232146
Pike231031
Adams226251
Wyandot224553
Hocking207057
Carroll187846
Paulding167638
Meigs140938
Noble131837
Monroe128541
Morgan105822
Harrison104836
Vinton81013
Unassigned01
Fort Wayne
Mostly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 54°
Angola
Mostly Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 55°
Huntington
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 53°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 54°
Lima
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 52°
Rain showers taper off throughout Sunday evening. Temperatures overnight will drop into the mid to low 40s. Monday, expect more clouds in the morning, with a littler clearer sky in the afternoon. Isolated rain showers possible on Monday. Highs around 60 on Monday.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events