Tiny Houses for Veterans

Young veterans, led by CNN Hero Chris Stout, build tiny homes for homeless vets and help vets with job placement and other services.

(Meredith/ CNN) -- A group of previously homeless veterans put a plan into action by starting an organization to help veterans find sufficient housing.

Leo Morris served in the Air Force. Karen Carter patrolled with the Coast Guard. Henry Owens enlisted in the Navy.

These veterans all served their country. They've also shared another experience: homelessness.

"You feel a sense of desperation, loneliness," said Owens, who was homeless for eight years. "I had no hope."

Today, they have another common bond: They are neighbors. Each one lives in a tiny home in the Veterans' Village in Kansas City, Missouri -- run by the Veterans Community Project.

The nonprofit is the vision of a group of young veterans led by former US Army Corporal Chris Stout.

After being wounded in Afghanistan in 2005 and returning home, Stout struggled with his injury and PTSD. He enjoyed being around veterans and got a job connecting vets to services they needed. But he was frustrated by the gaps and inefficiencies he saw. At times, Stout used his own money to put homeless veterans up in hotel rooms.

In 2015, he and a few buddies quit their jobs and started their organization.

"We are the place that says 'yes' first and figures everything else out later," Stout said. "We serve anybody who's ever raised their hand to defend our Constitution."

Stout found that many homeless veterans didn't like traditional shelters because they were unsafe or lacked privacy. When he learned about tiny homes, he quickly realized that a cluster of them made a lot of sense.

"It provides everything these guys need to live with dignity, safely, and then fix what got them there in the first place," he said.

The first 13 homes opened in January, and 13 more will be finished this November. The houses come complete with furniture, kitchen supplies, linens, toiletries, food and even gift baskets of coffee and cookies.

The group's outreach center assists residents as well as any local veteran with a variety of issues.

"Tiny houses are the sexy piece," Stout said. "But the meat and potatoes of what we do is connecting them to the services. ... We're a one-stop shop for all things veteran."

The Veterans Village itself provides valuable support: camaraderie.

"It's very much like the barracks lifestyle," Stout said. "They're taking care of each other."

Since he moved in this summer, Owens has gone back to school and has started a lawn care business. He says the support has changed his life.

"Now I have hope," he said. "It makes me love my country again."

Copyright 2018 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. 

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