NECAC, Tri-State Veterans Commission working together on tiny homes village; housing assistance, upgrades

A new partnership is poised to yield a tiny homes village for homeless veterans in Quincy, along with other tiny home projects and programs to aid veterans and homeowners throughout Northeast Missouri.

Richard Elsenpeter, President and Founder of the Tri-State Veterans Community Project, met with NECAC Deputy Director of Housing Development Carla Potts on Wednesday, Aug. 2, at the NECAC Homeownership Center. They discussed ways to work together toward common goals of providing housing and other programs for homeless veterans, assisting with home purchasing through services like the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 502 Direct Home Loan and helping homeowners rehabilitate their existing homes. Elsenpeter plans to open a village of tiny homes in Quincy to serve as transitional housing for homeless veterans, as they receive education, treatment and networking with area employers to help find a job and a permanent home. Potts said NECAC received a $30,000 grant from the Housing Assistance Council in Washington, D.C. to rehabilitate homes owned by veterans.

“So if you’re out there, and you’re a veteran — and you own your home and you need some siding or a roof or some electrical updates — you need to give us a call,” Potts said.

Potts said that NECAC has several programs that benefit veterans, but she noted that this new rehabilitation program is specifically geared toward veterans. Potts and Elsenpeter talked about tiny homes throughout their meeting. Potts talked with Elsenpeter about the demonstration home in Canton, which houses a space-efficient 512 square-foot floor plan that she said would be ideal for veterans transitioning out of the temporary program Elsenpeter plans.

The plans for the village call for a village of tiny homes where a homeless veteran would stay between one year and 1 1/2 years. Elsenpeter said a community of veterans is a better solution than a shelter or group home would provide, because veterans often feel isolated in those settings. He said when veterans are in a community together, they can open up with each other about similar experiences.

The program would be a “360-degree” design, providing services like training programs for job entry through area colleges, medical assistance and counseling for mental issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, Elsenpeter said. He said the goal is to prepare each veteran for a good job and finding a permanent home. The tiny homes will be a temporary place for each resident, but they are allowed to take bedding, kitchen equipment and other items with them when they transition to a permanent home.

Potts and Elsenpeter talked about many ways the two organizations could work together. She said the USDA 502 direct home loan offered through NECAC does not require a down payment, and interest can be financed as low as one percent, depending on income level. Elsenpeter agreed that the tiny homes NECAC is working on could be an excellent permanent home for a veteran who lived in the community village. Potts also talked about the Aspire Partnership — prison inmates build affordable homes while working toward an apprenticeship and journeyman position upon their release.

Potts said she could help with locating veterans in need of the service, along with helping write grants for the village. Elsenpeter said he planned to obtain accurate numbers outlining how many homeless veterans in the Tri-State area, because figures vary widely depending upon the source of the information. They agreed that those numbers are hard to nail down. For example, veterans living with friends or family aren’t always figured in the totals. Potts said NECAC recently assisted a homeless veteran and his wife with housing when they found that they were living in a tent near Mark Twain Lake.

Elsenpeter and Potts agreed that there would be many opportunities to help one another meet common goals. And Elsenpeter said he looked forward to building villages in the Hannibal area and other parts of the region, as funding and assistance become more readily available.

Potts said the home rehabilitation program is underway, and she encouraged people to call her at 573-324-6622 for more information. Elsenpeter said he is seeking between 2 1/2 and three acres to build the village of tiny homes, and he is hoping to partner with an organization or group to help locate land. The Tri-State Veterans Community Village also needs donors and volunteers to help make the goal a reality. For more information, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/tsvcv/ or call Elsenpeter at 217-577-2001.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com