Michael Hanke is grateful that the Chippewa Falls community has Klein Hall, a homeless shelter for veterans located on the Northern Center grounds. However, Klein Hall is designed as a program for single men.
Hanke, Klein Hall’s program supervisor, saw a need for housing for homeless female veterans, and for families with children.
Hanke, a former Chippewa Falls councilman, is a veteran and a member of AMVETS, and his organization began working on plans nine months ago to build a portable homeless shelter that will be one of the “tiny homes” operated by several churches in the region. He obtained a trailer and started working on plans to overhaul it into a shelter.
“It’s our way of supporting the community as a whole,” he said. “This home will be open to those veterans who can’t utilize the services offered at Klein Hall.”
What makes the new tiny home so unique is its size — at 8-by-24 feet, it is large enough to house a family.
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Hanke lined up assistance from the AMVET chapters in Eau Claire County, Colfax and Western Wisconsin to assist in funding the project. He got Proweld Fabrication of Cadott to work on the exterior. Loopy’s Tavern, The Snout Saloon and DAC Construction also participated in paying for the work or volunteering their time.
“We figured it would be $12,000 to $14,000 to build it, but it came in at about $8,500,” Hanke said. “That’s because of all the donations. I thought this was going to take longer than it did.”
The new shelter is named the AMVETS Olson-Kaufman Tiny Home, in honor of area veterans Todd Olson and Charles Kaufman, who died during the Iraq War. Olson, 36, of Loyal, died in 2004, while Kaufman, 20, of Fairchild, died in 2005.
Pastor Mike Cohoon of Landmark Christian Church in Lake Hallie, who has spearheaded the tiny home initiative, was stunned at the quality of the new home.
“This is going to be a really nice house,” Cohoon said. “We’re excited about it. We’ve housed a lot of larger families. It will give a lot more room.”
The shelter is now finished and set up at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church on the West Hill of Chippewa Falls. It needs new furnishings and appliances, which are expected to arrive in coming weeks. Because the trailer is off the ground, Cohoon said they plan to build a porch with steps to the door.
“We’re hoping to have it fully functional shortly after Christmas,” Cohoon said.
It will stay at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church until “Hope Village” is ready. Then it will move to that location.
The new trailer is the 10th “tiny home.” There previously were 10 homes in use, but Cohoon said they opted to sell a camper that wasn’t an ideal home.
Like the other tiny homes, it doesn’t have sewer or water.
Hanke said donating the home is just the first step in the process for his group. They want to provide food and other assistance to people who need to stay there in the future.