Milwaukee celebrates sale of land to build tiny houses for veterans
The City of Milwaukee made official its sale of a plot of land on the city’s northwest side to a non-profit developer that plans to build so-called tiny houses for veterans.
At a Friday morning ceremony at City Hall, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Brad Belhing, executive director of the developer, Milwaukee-based Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin Inc., signed the sale documents and celebrated the news. Officials touted the project as a future site for reintegration of veterans, with access to resources for employment, health, and future housing needs. The project, 9th District Alderwoman Chantia Lewis said, crucially serves those who “give us the freedoms we enjoy.”
“This is just a small way that we can say thank you by making sure they have a roof over their heads… it gives them a space to call their home.” said Lewis, whose district encompasses the project’s site in the Havenwood neighborhood.
A veteran of U.S. Air Force, Lewis said veterans often confront a difficult process of reintegration with broader society. Many, she said, are discharged with little understanding of what to do next. They can return jobless and with a limited support network. Younger veterans, she said, are particularly vulnerable to homelessness.
Lewis told the Journal Sentinel that she is grateful she found a job and a place to live in her hometown of Milwaukee after serving in a base in Alaska, but she said she understands why others struggle.
“It is very easy that if you don’t have a support system to catch you, that when you fall, you really fall.” Lewis said. “I could’ve been a homeless veteran.”
Lewis said the project has been in the works for three-and-a-half years.
The plan is to build 48 homes on seven acres at 6767 North 60th Street.
Lewis touted the location as one that is “nestled into a community.” The site currently has a community garden which she believes will be incorporated into the tiny houses project.
Brad Behling, the executive director of the Veteran’s Outreach, said the organization plans to to break ground on the project in the near future. In the project’s first phase, Veterans Outreach will focus on 24 single-occupancy small houses. It will also build a 10,000 square-foot community center with a communal kitchen, showers, and offices that host services for the site’s residents. The houses will each be 240 square feet.
According to Behling, the organization’s goal is to have the first set of houses filled with veterans by spring of next year. The site will look to serve veterans experiencing homelessness and those coming to Milwaukee after their service.
The project has moved forward in part due to a $700,000 loan form the Milwaukee Economic Development Corp. The other $2.2 million required for the project will come from grants and donations.