BREAKING NEWS : 1 seriously injured after Fort Wayne hotel stabbing on north side Full Story

Tiny homes offer big benefits for homeless military veterans

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...

Posted: Feb 14, 2018 6:24 AM
Updated: Feb 14, 2018 6:24 AM

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.

Confirmed Cases: 69255

Reported Deaths: 2996
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15029724
Lake7139273
Elkhart463077
Allen3662158
St. Joseph320379
Hamilton2543104
Hendricks1774105
Vanderburgh176312
Cass17549
Johnson1667118
Porter120939
Tippecanoe111811
Clark110945
Madison86265
LaPorte84329
Howard82465
Kosciusko82213
Bartholomew74847
Marshall74422
Floyd71845
Monroe69530
Delaware65452
Boone64446
Dubois64312
Noble63729
Hancock62838
Jackson5544
LaGrange54610
Warrick52830
Shelby52226
Vigo50910
Grant50729
Dearborn47328
Morgan43732
Henry36418
Clinton3603
White34710
Montgomery34221
Wayne33410
Lawrence33127
Decatur31832
Harrison30022
Miami2592
Scott25210
Daviess24919
Greene24034
Putnam2338
Franklin22911
DeKalb2214
Jennings21312
Jasper2102
Gibson2024
Steuben2013
Ripley1907
Perry17212
Orange16424
Starke1647
Fayette1627
Wabash1613
Posey1600
Jefferson1522
Carroll1482
Whitley1486
Fulton1472
Knox1340
Wells1342
Huntington1193
Tipton1176
Washington1171
Spencer1123
Newton11110
Randolph1074
Clay1015
Adams822
Owen821
Jay810
Rush804
Sullivan781
Pulaski711
Brown701
Fountain642
Benton600
Blackford552
Ohio514
Parke481
Pike470
Crawford440
Switzerland430
Martin420
Vermillion420
Union330
Warren191
Unassigned0202

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 95106

Reported Deaths: 3570
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin17404515
Cuyahoga12881482
Hamilton9248248
Lucas5035319
Montgomery409280
Summit3338217
Marion289644
Butler274360
Mahoning2437253
Pickaway236542
Stark1713137
Warren166935
Lorain165077
Columbiana158360
Trumbull1451105
Fairfield126427
Delaware121918
Licking115844
Clark109214
Lake105436
Wood95458
Clermont85911
Medina84833
Miami78137
Tuscarawas75614
Portage72460
Allen66742
Greene63511
Belmont59026
Richland54712
Ashtabula54445
Erie53527
Geauga53544
Mercer53513
Wayne50858
Ross4194
Huron3784
Ottawa36125
Athens3501
Sandusky34317
Darke34126
Madison33610
Hancock3332
Holmes3226
Auglaize2265
Lawrence2250
Union2221
Jefferson2103
Muskingum1991
Scioto1991
Putnam19817
Washington19822
Coshocton1856
Knox1857
Preble1722
Crawford1685
Seneca1673
Shelby1644
Morrow1602
Clinton1536
Hardin15312
Champaign1502
Fulton1411
Highland1361
Ashland1333
Defiance1324
Logan1302
Wyandot1257
Williams1243
Brown1181
Guernsey1127
Hocking1119
Carroll1105
Perry1093
Henry1081
Fayette1020
Monroe9118
Pike700
Van Wert701
Jackson680
Paulding620
Gallia581
Adams562
Vinton302
Meigs260
Harrison211
Morgan200
Noble160
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 63°
Angola
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 61°
Huntington
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 61°
Decatur
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 59°
Van Wert
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 61°
Sunny Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events