Building miniature homes for veterinarians makes a lot of sense


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

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

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

After being injured in Afghanistan in 2005 and returning home, Stout struggled with his injury and PTSD. He enjoyed the veterans and got a job linking the veterinarians with the services they needed. But he was disappointed with the gaps and inefficiencies he saw. From time to time, Stout used his own money to put the homeless veterans into the hotel rooms.

In 2015, he and some friends left their jobs and started organizing them.

"We are the place to say" yes "first and the figures all the other out later," said Stout. "We serve anyone who has ever lifted their hand to defend our Constitution."

Stout found that many homeless veterans did not like traditional shelters because they were not safe or lacking in privacy. When he learned of the tiny houses, he quickly realized that a cluster of them had a lot of meaning.

"It provides all these children have to live in dignity, safely, and then correct what they got there in the first place," he said.

The first 13 homes opened in January and 13 more will be completed this November. The houses come complete with furniture, kitchen utensils, linens, toiletries, food and even coffee and biscuits.

The group's approach center helps residents and every local veteran with various themes.

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

The Veteran Village itself offers valuable support: companionship.

"It looks very much like the way the barracks live," Stout said. "They take care of each other".

Since moving this summer, Owens has returned to school and started a lawn care business. He says support has changed his life.

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

CNN's Kathleen Toner talked to Stout about his work. Below is a modified version of their conversation.

CNN: How long can veterans stay in tiny houses?

Chris Stout: Our expected length of stay is six months, but as long as they are working to achieve their goals, they are welcome to stay. We see these tiny houses as an educational tool to teach them how to keep a home, cook for ourselves and live next to our neighbors. So far, eight of the original 13 residents have moved to a permanent residence. They get their furniture with them, so it takes about 72 hours to prepare a home for the next resident.

Apart from the 13 houses that will open in November, another 23 are to be completed after the first year, so that there are 49 houses together. We will also have a community center providing medical, dental, barber, veterinary care, and a scholarship room so that we can have group events.

CNN: Tiny houses are for homeless veterans. What help does your team provide to other veterans?

Stout: One of our flagship programs is free coach travel for all veterans. We have worked with the local transit authority and have given over a million walks in less than a year.

When a veteran walks on the door, he can get a bus ticket, housing placement, job placement, legal services, food cellar, cupboard and emergency financial assistance. We like to tell them, "What do you provide?" So we can ask them "What do you need?" And then we can begin to be the links. So far, we have helped more than 8,000 veterans.

CNN: What is the role of the community in your work?

Stout: We call the Veterans Community Program because we are the work of the community. We want people to feel as if they are the owners of it and we all want to join. When the veterans see all these volunteers appear, they will say, "Why is he here?" And we explain: "They are grateful."

The really cool place is that we have been approached by more than 650 communities. We work in Denver, Nashville and St. Louis. Our goal is to be in every big city we are going forward.

CNN: You did a lot to do this work.

Stout: I have left my job, I have been mortgaging my house, I spent my life savings – I worried my wife to death! But I come to work with a group of people I can mention. They are my friends. When I see a victory for them, that's huge. It's a feast for me. That makes me go every day.

We all went through basic. We all served. That's just the way to serve them.

Do you want to get involved? check it Community program of veterans website and see how to help.

To make a donation to the Veterans Community Program, click the CrowdRise widget below.