Fraternity works to create ‘tiny home’ village for homeless vets

Huntsville
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - With hundreds of homeless people in Huntsville, many of them veterans, a group of young men are putting down the foundation to get more people off of the streets.

"Any veteran that's living in the woods, there's something wrong with that," said Rusty Loiselle. He is CEO of Help Our Homeless Veterans and Civilians, an organization that advocates for the homeless community.

The men of Phi Kappa Psi at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) agree with Loiselle's statement. They have created an initiative to create a tiny home village somewhere in Huntsville.

Taylor Reed, president of the colony at the university, say they were inspired after they came across a homeless man at a Sonic fast food restaurant. That encounter led to scheduled meals with members of the homeless community.

"Me and my brothers were like, 'we want to do something about this,'" said Reed, and Foundations for Tomorrow was born.

The tiny houses are less than 500 square feet, with the accommodations of an efficiency apartment, and best of all -- they are mobile. The Foundations for Tomorrow idea is a village with a communal feel: a shared garden that is maintained by the residents and a community center where they will eat together at least once a week.

"Get them out of cardboard boxes and into these tiny homes while they go through re-training and get the assistance they need," said Loiselle. He says he pitched the concept to Huntsville administrators before to no avail, but says he is happy to see the effort gaining legs, regardless of who makes it happen.

The fraternity has had a presence on UAH's campus for less than a year, but is already making its mark with the project. They currently have a tiny house model at a public housing conference in Mobile with the hopes of raising awareness and gaining support.

They really have thought of everything. "The Alabama Center for Sustainable Energy has offered to do solar panels on each of the houses, so it's off the grid, it doesn't cost the city anything, the energy is free," said Reed.

The Foundation for Tomorrow tiny home model costs about $5,000 a piece to build. The tiny house movement is currently being used nationwide for people trying to downsize and, often times, live off the grid.

Reed thinks the movement can be better applied. "Why not take this hobby, and use it for an actual need?"

One acre of land would house 30 tiny homes. The fraternity members have combined their majors and the resources provided by MindGear Labs -- created by a UAH alum -- to bring the idea this far.

"The Housing Authority of Huntsville has shown different areas of land where this could work," said Reed, "they said it's a good idea, it can happen, they just can't give us the land, we would have to acquire it on our own."

That's where their website fund comes in. The fraternity members plan to build the homes themselves -- with the help of the future resident -- once they get the funds to make it happen, to reduce the costs in any way possible.

"These tiny homes are a step towards nice solid housing, it's a step up," said Loiselle.

Learn more about Phi Kappa Psi at UAH here.

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