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Could Tiny Homes be the Answer For Homeless Veterans?

Across the country, "tiny homes" are being used in a number of ways ... Jeff Gustin is executive director of Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin. He’s also the brain behind the tiny home village. “We’re offering them a hand up, not a hand out.

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Listen Listening.. / 3:45 Across the country, "tiny homes" are being used in a number of waysSome people enjoy the novelty of living in a space so small, that you can touch almost every part of it from the couchFor others, the tiny houses are an answer to homelessnessA new tiny home community in Racine is giving homeless veterans a shot at independenceThink about the size of your home and then ask yourself, could you live in 128 square feet? For residents of Racine’s new tiny home community, 128 square feet is more than they ever could ask forThey used to be homelessBut now, each of them lives in a tiny home, furnished with a TV, mini fridge, microwave and a couch which doubles as a bedThere's also a community center, about a 30-second walk away from the 15 or so homesIt houses bathrooms, as well as kitchen and laundry facilitiesMichael Lueck was the first to move inHe holds back tears as he talks about how grateful he is Lueck says his only options were to sleep in his car or on his son's couchFor seven months, he chose the couch and now he has a home of his own Credit LaToya Dennis “It makes me real emotional to talk about it,” Lueck saysLueck is 64 years oldBefore moving into his tiny home, which he helped build and decorate with an American flag, he spent the last seven months sleeping on his son’s couch“I just, I never had anybody try to help me out to this extent beforeSo right now, it just means the world to me,” Lueck saysLueck voluntarily joined the army during Vietnam, but never saw combatYet he has disabilities that he says have kept him from holding down a job for the last 15 years“Some OCD and bipolar and severe depression, but I also have a titanium ball and shaft in my right shoulder so I have limited movement in my right arm and in 2013, I had  three broken vertebrae’s in my back,” Lueck saysLueck says right now, his only income is his social security disabilityHe says he can’t afford to live on his ownAs a veteran, he'll be allowed to stay in Racine's tiny home community free of charge for two yearsDuring that time, he -- and the other residents -- will be put through a number of programs, from money management to therapy to AODA treatmentJeff Gustin is executive director of Veterans Outreach of WisconsinHe’s also the brain behind the tiny home village“We’re offering them a hand up, not a hand outThey’re working for thisThis is a program that they enrolled into (be) cause they want to better their livesSo we just want to give them the assistance to make that happen,” Gustin saysBut just how successful are transitional housing programs? Kathryn Monet is chief executive officer for the National Coalition for Homeless VeteransShe says in general, people don't stay long“In those transitional housing programs for VA, I think the average length of stay is really only six to nine months,” Monet saysMonet says some people leave because they’re at a place where they no longer need help, while others simply can’t handle the programShe says homeless veterans can be a tough population to serveAccording to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, many people need help, because of the lasting impact of PTSD and substance abuse, "compounded by a lack of family and social support networks." Jeff Gustin of Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin says his organization built the tiny home village to try to make a difference“The need was brought to our doorstepOnce we started getting calls weekly from homeless veterans, we thought we had to do something to try and solve the problem,” Gustin saysTags: WUWM NewsTweetShareGoogle+Email Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science

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