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Local veterans, community partner to build 'tiny house' for homeless

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Trinity UMC's tiny house

This photo provided by Hope Village Chippewa Falls shows the outside of one of two tiny houses placed at Trinity United Methodist Church in Chippewa Falls.

A new house in Chippewa Falls will be designed, built and designated specifically for veterans.

The residence won’t be a typical ranch or two-story, however.

The home will be built on a trailer and will sit next to a local church, where it will offer free housing to homeless veterans.

Hope Village – a Chippewa Falls project providing “tiny housing” and job prospects for the homeless – is partnering with Klein Hall, a state program for homeless veterans transitioning into new jobs and living places.

Six veterans at Klein Hall will provide the manpower, designing and building the tiny house.

Once construction is finished, Hope Village will “place” the house at a local church.

“It’s for a displaced family or displaced veteran with children,” said Tom Clemons of western Wisconsin, a Klein Hall veteran since November 2017.

The Chippewa Valley desperately needs more housing for homeless veterans, he said: “That’s what I’m concerned about here in this area the most.”

The new house will have four beds, Clemons said.

Clemons and five other Klein Hall veterans will build and assemble the house.

But they’re not the only local group pitching in.

The Chippewa Falls Elks Club recently donated $6,000 for building materials, said Hope Village coordinator Mike Cohoon.

Chippewa Valley Technical College welding students built a trailer that will serve as the base for the tiny house.

A Chippewa County contractor donated a local workspace and tools.

The veterans were slated to begin working on the house Monday, Clemons said.

“All of us have part-time or full-time jobs, so we’re going to work in the later hours of the evening,” he said.

Clemons and the five other veterans are planning an efficient, unique design.

“After we get it all put up, we’re going to design cupboards, design the bed and table,” Clemons said. “Everything would be kind of like a camping trailer, where it folds down.”

At 20 feet by 7 ½ feet and 13 ½ feet tall, it will be Hope Village’s largest tiny home, Clemons said.

Like the other tiny homes, it will be hooked up to a nearby church’s electricity, and residents can use the church’s shower facilities and running water.

“They’ll have a microwave, refrigerator, some will have TVs. They’re definitely going to have air conditioning and a heater. We’re going to try and design passive solar heating into this one,” Clemons said.

The veterans each bring a unique background to the project.

“I have some framing construction experience, and definitely a lot of electrical work,” Clemons said. “There’s some other men that also have carpentry skills, utility skills, plumbing skills. We’re all well-rounded men.”

The project resonates especially with Clemons.

“I’ve been in a homeless situation twice in the last two years,” he said.

Clemons stayed at a Salvation Army in La Crosse County before coming to Klein Hall in November 2017.

A final destination

The home’s future location is undecided, Cohoon said, but Hope Village has one space available at Chippewa Valley Bible Church, 531 E. South Ave.

“We’re talking to a couple (other) churches about applying for special-use permits,” Cohoon said.

Hope Village has two other tiny houses in the development stage, which Cohoon hopes will be finished by the end of 2018.

While the project has faced worries from some community members when applying for special-use permits from the city, Cohoon said he believes the city trusts Hope Village’s track record.

“They’re familiar now with the vetting process, making sure people in the houses aren’t a danger to the neighborhood … we haven’t had any incidents having to call authorities in,” Cohoon said. “I think we’re putting people tiny houses that are looking to make progress.”

The five existing tiny houses have provided more 1,400 nights of shelter since the summer of 2016, Cohoon said.

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