Enlisting to fight in the U.S. military comes with unique obstacles and risks. According to Military.com, 41% of millennial veterans have been rendered disabled after returning from war zones since 2001 and later, compared to just 25% of veterans from previous generations.
A jaw-dropping 500,000 veterans who engaged in armed conflicts across Iraq and Afghanistan in the past 13 years have been officially diagnosed with PTSD. And according to The National Library of Medicine, a survey of 3,157 United States veterans showed reports of at least “one potentially traumatic event” in 87% of respondents.
The pitfalls of war are indeed numerous. But many veterans leave the battlefield with pride and accomplishment, at least in the beginning. Sadly, as time passes, invisible scars and challenges emerge that make bills difficult to pay and employment difficult to obtain for some of them.
In a bitter twist of irony, chronic homelessness is the battle that follows many U.S. military veterans home. Fortunately, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the general mentality is that “one veteran without a home is one too many”…
Meet the Unhoused Veterans of South Dakota
Telecommunications specialist Joy Kaliszuk served in the American Army for two years before sustaining a career-ending injury that pushed her out of service and eventually onto the streets.
“I was without a home for about a week and a half. I don’t have a car, so actually, I was living out of my ex-husband’s vehicle,” she explained in a candid interview with Keloland News reporters.
While tragic, this story is commonplace among discharged vets returning to U.S. soil. Imagine the psychological effects of giving so much of your time, energy, and physical and emotional labor in the name of a country that won’t even provide you with a home.
The Veterans Community Project aims to change that reality one tiny house community at a time.
Veterans Community Project: Serving Those Who Served America
The Veterans Community Project is an organization founded and run by people who have also served in the U.S. military. Their mission is simple – to provide housing, security, stability, and a place of refuge for the tens of thousands of veterans experiencing homelessness across the country.
These unique communities are complete with housing and resources, pet-friendly amenities, and functional furnishings, among other assets. The Sioux Falls, South Dakota community is one of their many tiny house villages slated to be complete in the foreseeable future. This organization either already has or is currently constructing similar properties in all of the following places:
- Kansas City, Missouri – Their flagship community is situated in Missouri’s largest metropolitan area, Kansas City. Here, you will find 49 tiny houses constructed almost entirely by volunteers.
- Longmont, Colorado – As of March 2022, this village is still in its construction phase, having reached a promising agreement with Longmont Council to waive $189,582 in fees. The VCP aspires to construct 26 tiny homes on the two-acre wide property and has already opened its outreach center.
- St. Louis, Missouri – A community consisting of 50 tiny homes for unhoused veterans is in its construction phase in STL.
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – These two regions just made their way onto the map. Construction phases are pending.
What To Expect from the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Tiny House Village
According to Sanford Health (a sponsor for the VCP effort), the tiny house community will feature 25 small homes set on 2 acres of land upon completion. Ten of those homes will be designated for families. The other 15 will be individual units.
These tiny homes offer sanctuary and privacy to the weary former soldiers, many of whom have lived on the streets for years. As with other communities erected or currently under construction, each unit features:
- Personal items and that’s just what’s under the roof
The broader community stretching across the landscape will have social workers and “battle buddies” at the ready, helping these veterans to address the unique root causes of their struggles. On-site provisions include:
- Health and wellness options including medical, dental, and veterinarian services
- A network of support and much more
This is a far cry from the pallet “shelters” we witness dominating much local news. These communities fully exemplify the difference between housing homeless veterans and warehousing human beings.
In a VCP community, they focus on residents reaching economic goals. Once reached, the next mission is to transition these individuals and families into long-term, permanent housing. On this journey toward rebuilding hope through homes, the Veterans Community Project seeks volunteers.
Get Involved. Talk to Your Legislators About the Harms of Homelessness
The existence of homelessness is harmful to communities in a wide variety of ways. Housing scarcity drives up the price of rental property and mortgages, while the lack of affordable housing drains taxpayer dollars.
U.S. veterans are currently 50% more likely to experience the devastating reality of living unhoused. Yet, according to Bloomberg, with just 2% of our nation’s 17-21-year-olds fit, willing, and able to serve, the American military is in dire straits.
Another battle is the current housing crisis which has created an uncertain future for all Americans, military or not. Talk to your local legislators about ending homelessness nationwide.