Nonprofit Builds Tiny Home Village for Veterans

by Jennifer Shea

After serving in the military, many veterans wrestle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues that can lead to homelessness. But for veterans in one state, things are looking up. A South Carolina nonprofit is assembling a tiny home village just for veterans in Myrtle Beach.

The Veterans Welcome Home and Resource Center (VWHRC) is aiming to open up 50 tiny homes over the next two years, and 20 new tiny homes by July. It will help a fraction of the more than 300 homeless veterans in the Myrtle Beach area, but it’s a start.

VWHRC Director Scott Dulebohn told WMBF News that the nonprofit’s goal is not just to put a roof over the veterans’ heads. It’s to give them a second chance at life.

“You see the smile back on their face and they carry their shoulders higher,” he told WMBF. “And it just makes you feel good. It’s just amazing. So we’re going to do everything we can to get the veterans off the street here in Myrtle Beach.”

Tiny Home Village Is Gradually Going Up

On Monday, workers transported a new tiny home from Murrells Inlet to Little River. A veteran will be able to move into the building in two weeks. But VWHRC is not stopping there. They’re putting together an entire community in Little River.

In the meantime, VWHRC is working with veterans who reach out to them on job placement, financial assistance and finding temporary shelter.

“We need all our veterans to get to work and help end this thing. I mean, any veteran that wants to be off the street should have a place to go,” Dulebohn said. “And we’re going to make sure that happens with our organization.”

One veteran who has gotten to work helping his fellow veterans is Don Bowne. The Vietnam vet helped raise $110,000 toward the tiny home housing project.

“It’s really hard to describe a feeling that you get when you do something good for somebody. I’m a veteran myself. And so all of a sudden, I get this opportunity. It’s all been built up inside me for 50 or 60 years. So it just feels really good,” Bowne told WMBF.

Homelessness Is a Problem for Tens of Thousands of Veterans

Homelessness remains an issue for thousands of vets. By 2017, there were more than 40,000 homeless vets in the U.S., according to Department of Housing and Urban Development data. But according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, those numbers have actually declined since 2009.

More recently, the VA spent $20 million in American Rescue Plan funds this past December on helping VA medical centers care for homeless veterans. For a limited time, Congress gave the VA the authority to do that.

“This unprecedented authority allows the Department of Veterans Affairs to meet the immediate needs of Veterans who lack stable housing, transportation to medical appointments, food and other essentials – all while helping them to achieve long-term housing and financial stability,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement.

The VA medical centers were able to go beyond treating the veterans and also buy groceries, meals, apartment start-up kits, furniture, and merchandise and laundry vouchers for the veterans. The VA even set up a national rideshare program to help veterans without transportation get to where they needed to go.

But with many veterans still homeless and struggling, it seems more communities like the one in South Carolina will be necessary.