I love finding out about new ways that tiny homes are being used to help people that are in need and the Veterans Community Project is an incredibly impressive organization that has accomplished a ton in just a few short years, including 49 tiny homes for veterans on a piece of property that they now own! Vincent Morales has been there from the start and together we go through the organization's history, what they do, how they settled on tiny houses, and how everything works with the Veterans Community Project. This is a really inspiring conversation and I'm so grateful that there are people like Vincent out there doing the work that they're doing.
In This Episode:
- What does VCP do and who do they serve
- Using tiny homes as the first step to healing
- Advantages of a therapeutic space for PTSD
- How veterans transition out of the tiny house village
- Why the community doesn't have a laundry room
- How can veterans get in touch with VCP?
Links and Resources:
Sergeant First Class Vincent Morales served with the U.S. Army with 5 deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and rotations to Korea and Germany. Upon returning to his hometown of Kansas City, MO, Vincent helped found Veterans Community Project, a non-profit organization with a mission of ending Veterans' homelessness.
This Week's Sponsor:
Tiny House Engage
As you'll hear in this interview community is so important – and not just in helping people to heal, but in helping people to thrive and move forward. That's why I started my online community called Tiny House Engage. Tiny House Engage is a place where tiny dreamers, tiny planners, people building their own tiny houses, and even people living tiny come together to support one another on their own tiny house journeys. Registration only opens every 4-6 weeks and that date is coming up!
Tiny House Engage opens this coming Tuesday and you can find out all the details at thetinyhouse.net/engage. Even if you visit that page before Tuesday you can sign up to be notified when the doors to Tiny House Engage are open.
This tiny home community is within city limits
When the residents transition they are able to take the furniture with them
The tiny homes all have their own kitchens
Part of the therapeutic environment is being visually appealing
Each unit has a straight line of sight through the whole house for the peace of mind of veterans with PTSD
Dogs are an important part of therapy
The houses are completely electric
There is no community laundry room – which was intentional
Sleep is an important part of therapy and the houses are designed so that the residents can rest safely
VCP built the first 13 houses on their own!
Funding can come from some creative places
Self-sufficiency was important to VCP when they were thinking of the community design
Some of the houses are larger to accommodate families of up to 6 people
They help veterans with other services – this gentleman received a much-needed new walker
Guided tours of the community are available
The Veterans Community Project Tribute Garden
Vincent Morales 0:00
Some of these tiny homes don't necessarily have the same amenities that we have. We wanted to make sure that it was housing with dignity and the veterans were comfortable there and it was their first step in their, in their healing. So through all that the Tiny Homes model was actually picked.
Ethan Waldman 0:15
Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 179. with Vincent Morales, I love finding out about new ways that Tiny Homes are being used to help people in need. And the Veterans Community Project is an incredibly impressive organization that has accomplished a ton in just a few short years, including 49 Tiny Homes for veterans on a piece of property that they now own. Vincent Morales has been there from the start. And together we go through the organization's history, what they do, how they settled on tiny houses, and how everything works with the Veterans Community Project. This is a really inspiring conversation. And I'm just so grateful that there are people like Vincent out there doing the work that they're doing. So I hope you stick around.
As you'll hear in this interview with Vincent Morales community is so important, not just in helping people to heal, but in helping people to thrive and move forward. And that's why I started my online community called Tiny House Engage. Tiny House Engage is a place where tiny dreamers, tiny planners, people building their own tiny houses, and even people living tiny come together to support one another on their tiny house journeys. Registration only opens every four to six weeks. It's actually been closer to eight weeks since registration is last open. So I anticipate that there are a lot of people who are excited to join Tiny House Engage. Well, I'm here to tell you that the date is coming up. Tiny House Engage opens this coming Tuesday. And you can find out all the details at thetinyhouse.net/engage. Even if you visit that page before Tuesday, you can sign up to be notified when the doors to Tiny House Engage open. Again. That's thetinyhouse.net/engage.
All right, I am here with Sergeant First Class Vincent Morales. Sergeant First Class Vincent Morales served with the US Army with five deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom to in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and rotations to Korea and Germany. Upon returning to his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, Vincent helped founded Veterans Community Project a nonprofit organization with a mission of ending veterans homelessness. Vincent Morales, welcome to the show.
Vincent Morales 2:58
Thank you, Ethan. Thank you for having me. Thank you. For everybody listening, I appreciate the opportunity to have some conversations about things that are near and dear to my heart and and obviously listeners and your heart Tiny Homes and taking care of each other and taking care of Americans.
Ethan Waldman 3:14
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So can you tell me a bit about you know, the story behind Veterans Community Project, how it got started?
Vincent Morales 3:25
Yes, indeed. So I had to be around 2015 a group of combat veterans here in Kansas City. We're all working in different facets of veteran, better lifestyle that are in culture. I was actually working with a federal program called SSVA if it's a housing grantee, and I was there veteran navigator. I mean, through that, I met the other gentlemen that are co founders organization. And, you know, there's a lot of guys talking about things that we want to do all those being combat veterans have that, that understanding of what works and what doesn't work, and what is the challenges that veterans are facing? So we kind of, you know, over some beers that have all great ideas, start out with beers, right beer and beer and dinner.
I'm saying if we could take away the playbook that's currently in use and start from scratch, and do what's right for veterans because it's right start to move some of the red tape, expedite the process, what would that look like? And of course, you know, kind of came to fruition four or five years later where we have a tiny village of 49 here in Kansas City project going to Longmont, Colorado. In two days, we leave for our groundbreaking St. Louis, as well as a project getting moving in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. That's fast forwarding to where we're at. But it was the idea of what we could do to service The best and the quickest.
The Tiny Homes actually wasn't even in play at this time. It was just, let's do right because it's right. Yeah. Well, we ended up coming up with was with some research around what programs were programmed to work, why were they working? Why would they not working. And we ended up doing several things that were different when it came to veteran services. So we described veteran, our definition of veteran as anybody that has raised their right hand. So there are many other ways to define veteran, we define it uniquely, since the draft, less than one half of 1% of Americans serve our country. So whether an individual had 20 years or two weeks of service, they are a veteran, to Veterans Community Project, and we will work with them in service. That's really, really game changing groundbreaking,
Ethan Waldman 5:56
Who gets excluded in the kind of traditional definition of veteran?
Vincent Morales 6:02
So it's not necessarily that anyone excludes anybody, it's it's just navigating the system. So I'll give you a kind of real quick synopsis. In order to be a VA eligible veteran, you have to have 24 months of consecutive service after September 1980. That kind of creates an issue for reservist and Guard members who don't fall under that cap. They've been named on 20 years in the National Guard, but they're not eligible. It helps healthcare unless they were injured until retirement age. So there's a lot of different you know, deals going on.
So the American Legion and the VFW, two amazing organizations definitely cornerstones of the veteran community. But in order to be a member of each, you have to fall under certain parameters. For it to be a veteran to remember the VFW, you have to have been in a foreign war, I will say it's in their name, one of our skirmishes, obviously. So it's not necessarily exclusion, by the way, it's just not one veteran is not like the other, there are so many different things that we will all walks of life and qualify for.
So it's about understanding that veterans path where they're at in their journey, triage in their situation, and expediting them to the services that they best qualify for. If it's the VA, if it is referral to Vietnam Veterans of America, which they have amazing organization, that's actually what gave me a lot of help in my personal life, to maybe the veteran doesn't qualify for any of those things. So there are community partners out there that we can connect them with. So that really breaks down that stigma of you're not a veteran, or you don't have this, that's we've been really amazing at doing that. And that's part of our, you know, really big, huge part of our success. The other part of our success, which I know we'll get to is the tiny home itself. The tiny home is an amazing tool, and I'll get into that as we continue.
Ethan Waldman 8:04
Yeah, definitely. And it's, it's great. I didn't realize that, you know, what you're doing goes way beyond just the tiny houses to connecting veterans to other services, maybe there's services that you can provide that, that you're then connecting them to other services. I do want to kind of move into talking about the tiny houses and there's just so many questions about them, because they they're, they look amazing, and it's just so cool to see them all kind of laid out in that nice little meandering the road that kind of squiggles through maybe can you tell us about how you discovered you know, maybe take us through like the process of discovering tiny houses and then like, making them reality for Veterans Community Project.
Vincent Morales 8:51
So as I said, initially, good food good beer. Great idea. So we're already moving in the right direction. And then the idea came what would services look like? main ideas out there and as you noted, we do more than the tiny homes that is just our bread and butter that is what we're known for. Because that is the the basis of the of the needs of an individual having housing.
So the initial on the dog the initial idea was actually kind of a group living type of situation. But as we progress and we've seen taken tours and some of those events and personal things in our own lives, understood that's not the best therapeutic environment that is available. Our original - I apologize she's actually still on our board - she's she's been our champion since one of the vino very beginning conversations brought the idea of Tiny Homes and at that time and I'm not sure if it was kind of right time right place, but the Tiny Homes interest had you know, starting to grow Zack Giffen of Tiny House Nation started making it a known thing.
So the idea came about and we started to earn Tiny Homes villas across the nation with a blind, we flew to Southern Seattle, Southern California, seeing what their process was, how they laid out what they did, what they didn't, did not offer, how we can improve on that and have housing with dignity. Some of these hiring homes don't necessarily have the same amenities that we had, we wanted to make sure that it was housing with dignity, and the veterans were comfortable there. And it was their first step in their, in their healing. So through all that the Tiny Homes model was actually picked. And then the layout is amazing.
So speaking of Zack Giffen, he actually came down and gave us a hand our first build, nice. Remember what episode is was it was 2016 came down and actually, you know kind of gave us insights and stuff kind of shows us for plans and things of that nature. The specific floor plan that we have that we abide by for our programming is a really big part of the reason why veterans are able to progress and get better. We have seen some amazing Tiny Homes with the dual dual layers and kind of the bunk bed the overhang. Yep, ours is actually picked and selected for post traumatic stress therapy, and the ability for veterans to feel safe and comfortable in their own home.
Sleep is, you know, for every American, I think sleep is not really a value that we think that we value enough. So when you wake up in crisis mode every day, and you have little sleep, you're probably not going to make the best decision. So part of our program is giving that veteran the ability to gain that night's sleep that they know that they can log and close that door. Yeah, there's often by people that care liver that they are safe in their house was m allows him to get up and be productive at rectifying whatever caused her situation. There were all there are a lot of things that went kind of happened with the city. Once again, our our board president really championed our cause nice and helped to build the tiny home village here in Kansas City.
Ethan Waldman 12:08
So the homes range in size looks like about 250 to 350 square feet, something like that.
Vincent Morales 12:17
Yes, indeed. So as mentioned earlier, we kind of thought outside the box, one of the first things that we did was say we're gonna change what the term and our definition of veteran is. Yeah, well, at the same time, from a programmatic standpoint, there are a lot of agencies that do amazing things. But they service the veteran and the veteran alone, they are not able to sometimes their family or their companion animal. So we do have two sizes of houses. We have our single family single units, 240 square feet. And then we have a family unit. So we have them, those are 340 square feet and actually sleep six, wow, queen size bed, triple stacked custom made bunk bed and roll out. So for now, I don't think you want to be with six people in a tiny house all day. But it affords that that family that veteran to continue to work on new and or recreate those bonds.
Ethan Waldman 13:14
Vincent Morales 13:15
Which is part of that therapy?
Ethan Waldman 13:17
Yeah. So in terms of so it looks like the houses they don't have a sleeping loft? So it's one open room? What What do they have in them in terms of utilities?
Vincent Morales 13:30
So utility wise, so everything for us is is electric, where they're actually built slab on grade? So you're here in Missouri, you know, we were in Tornado Alley, the houses are there, some of the safest structures around here. The built in phases. So the first 13 were literally built by us by hand. We were still you know, very young, we're still young. And now we are in the very early years. So we would do our given, you know, job here, whether it was networking development, connecting the vendors building the program out and then every night all staff would go that wasn't there all day and hang sheet rock and wow. Yeah, the initial houses, I would say almost everything was done by us, with the exception, the exception of a couple of skilled labor agencies that helped us out with all the things that we weren't able to do. But really had some really great partners t electric united heating and cooling came through and did their skill part.
So slab on grade two by fours. And as we progressed, it was that they were actually all insulated to an R 34. We're actually happy to kind of announced that we we got better as a project progress. We're actually at an R 42. Now with our installation, nice learning how to do tricks in the trade and how to make the house a little bit better. As you As you kind of alluded to earlier, what comes with the house so as a as an individual walk in the house, on the right hand side is the kitchenette, range stove, electric range stove, hood for venting, granite, countertops, shelves that are all custom hand built, and would be on the left hand side of the living room area, kind of a desk, TV, kind of, you know, your informational area, and directly against the back wall. And if there's a picture of seams on the inside of a tiny home, it's a direct line of sight to the front door.
A veteran is saying here, front doors here, the only windows there and would be directly to my left would be the restroom. Right? So that's part of the therapy of the house itself. So they were coming, and then there is an armoire for the clothing all the other fun stuff. Yeah. And then a really amazing bathroom. People don't realize how much you can do with 240 square feet. Yeah, we have a tankless water heater. So that's always amazing saves on space. The the project itself is it's really highlights what that space can be used. And for my generation, our generation of their male if we have OMD those spaces with the exact same sized spaces that we lived in when we were in Iraq and or Afghanistan. So that's actually like, pretty amazing, because I can remember sharing those size rooms with six other individuals. So you know, it's kind of like, wow, this is familiar, this is home. Yeah, I've been here before and then.
But it's not that same type of environment. They are in a nurturing, caring, loving, understanding environment with accountability and responsibility. So a good night's sleep, purpose, motivation and direction when they get up. And the beautiful part about our program is that when a veteran successfully transitions out of our program into a permanent housing solution, they take everything with them. So they take that furniture, they take that by they take those or anything that's not bolted down, basically. Yeah, take with them to their new place. So they're not starting, oh, I did amazing in this project, not that just spent all this money to get a new place. They are not starting with that. Yeah, they are starting stuff. They already there, you have sweat equity invested in program. And if individuals experiencing housing instability, and you walk into 240 square feet of your own place, that usually is an automatic, no boost in morale. They're just really yeah.
Ethan Waldman 17:42
So so a veteran arrives to their new home, and it's furnished. So the chair, the armoire, the staff, and then they kind of regain their attraction kind of get back on their feet. And then when they move out, they actually get to take that all with them.
Vincent Morales 17:58
Yes, indeed. Nice. We even had and this is, as of late, or former last transitions who were like, I don't want to take this with me because I want to help another band because they're like I am doing. When I came with a program I was here. Now through the program and the way things work, and I have now here is reigniting that warrior spirit that this program and that housing does. So they're like, I don't want to take it. I want to make sure to give it to somebody else. But they it's really amazing to to see how that goes. Yeah, that's the program.
Ethan Waldman 18:39
So who how long on average, do the houses are the houses inhabited? Before
Vincent Morales 18:47
the veteran moves to permanent housing. So off the top of my head, we I recall this. I have an actual day count for you. But I want to, I want to think i think is 431 days, but the average is about 13 to 16 months is when we start to see those things, their case management plan and all those things coming to fruition. And a lot of that, honestly, it goes back to the house. Yeah. So that first 60 3060 or 90 days, individuals are starting to build and regain that trust and society, their fellow man, they're kind of leaving the fight or flight mode there. So it really is the house. That is a huge tour. I think it's and that's why I live with love dogs. I love to hop on a podcast about Tiny Homes because I think that's one of the program pieces. I know that I didn't see.
But as we've grown to understand how important the way our housing model is laid out and set up, as you said, kind of a flowing roads. Yeah, house looks directly into one another. It's the ability it's the ability to engage with your neighbors. But also if you choose to back off, you're more than welcome. too. So the housing model on the way, the way our house, our village is set up the way the house is set up. That's the power, one of the maybe is the power of this program. Because that change 30, 60, 90 days, they start to believe in themselves, it's hard to see that this is theirs, and timers how they can progress and are allowed to adhere to their case management program.
Ethan Waldman 20:25
Yeah, that's beautiful, because I would imagine that maybe a more traditional model for housing, homeless veterans might involve motel rooms, or hotel rooms or other temporary shelters where people aren't getting that security of, you know, four walls and a roof around their head and a space that is theirs.
Vincent Morales 20:49
So before I there's a guy mentioned that we did kind of tours around different tiny house housing programs, yeah. To see what the other houses look like and what is available. And get into. So traditionally, my my role with this organization was our original outreach worker, case manager, program director of our our housing now I work on the national expansion side. But I've spent a lot of time and a lot of homeless shelters. And as you just said, I know individuals who will not go to a homeless shelter or any shelter period. Yeah, for your fear to straight out of fear, Rob mud, things of that nature. Yes, you're out of the elements. But that's not really a good trade off when you're losing all your belongings every time you go in there. Yeah. And now Yeah, that's what that really was what was sold us on this, I was, you know, very in depth conversation about why this model will and can be and has been so effective. That safety, it's the ability to close that door and know that they're going to be safe, and it allows them to regain that trust. Yeah. Yeah. How did I mean, not just the housing that the house itself is an amazing tool?
Ethan Waldman 22:02
Absolutely. And, and it's just, we've, I've heard this anecdotally now. And I believe it to be true, but just from, you know, different people, different organizations using tiny houses as a way to either a permanent housing for homeless people or as transitional housing. And it just seems like there's some kind of almost magic in in the tiny house or in that small space, that that really gives people a sense of place again, and from a from a larger,
Vincent Morales 22:37
larger social perspective, right? This is America, right? Nothing exceeds, like excess, I need. Yeah, acres and a seven bedroom house, even though there's been my wife and my two kids. And that's for some individuals. That's that's home. That's fine. That's amazing. But it is really amazing to see when you can possibly that you can live and how can you declutter your life? Yeah. I was declutter for me very many times. I you know, when you go overseas, you take two bags with you. So for however long your your trip is overseas, that's what you live out of. So that model and that's simply that simplicity, allowances enough not to worry about cleaning, or although they can focus on getting to where they need to be in their life so that they can refocus back on those things that we take for granted every day. Yeah. I mean, it really like less is more, it really, truly isn't the degrees. And it's very effectively Whoa. Yeah, sounds like it.
What we have done this kind of give a give yourself even as well as, you know, listeners, understanding of our housing program is, so we have 49 Tiny Homes. Initially, it was going to be 50. Because obviously, we're a group of veterans and 50 is a good number. We did have some challenges. And that kind of goes along with our champion who helped us out. We were one way and tours I know we are still one of the only Tiny Homes, villages that is zoned within the limits. Yep. So that was that was really huge for us. That was the reason why we ended up losing house, working with the city certain offsets that we need to have, for lack of better terms. It's a subdivision, but it is not a subdivision. We have some unique challenges that we had to face. They went to city but we had we have an outstanding city council and mayor's office was behind us our support. So that was pivotal in creating this program.
We also did was our veterans have their own kitchenettes which sometimes villages do not. So it's it's that ability to do When they need to eat because if a child is at five o'clock and you work four o'clock shifts, you're not going to be able to eat. Right. We also went with individual bathrooms, we noticed that, you know, kind of in some of the larger, tiny villages, there was a water closet that was kind of a group living type of deal. Yeah. The only thing we did not do and this was actually by design, it's been worked and worked out working out well. Is there is no on the spot laundry service. Why that has occurred is because we also great program with the cancer translation authority and the VA. all veterans can ride bus free in the city. Okay, so we are less than 500 feet from a bus stop. But also individuals experiencing housing instability, have vehicles.
When we think of, you know, traditional homeless, we're thinking about individual rage, one, you know, shopping cart full of belongings, and that's it. There are a lot of individuals who are facing housing instability crisis, and they live out their vehicle. Yeah. So when it comes to, as I talked about the safety and security reintegration piece, if you, you can happen to have a vehicle and you come live in the village, and I don't and I know that, you know, obviously, you're here, you're a veteran, and we are having a conversation Hey, man, do you mind giving me a ride down to a laundromat that creates instant connectivity. And then of course, we get to give you the military culture, we use other stuff back and forth, just in general. And then individuals are able to, you know, candidly grow as a community and reintegrate without being a parameter of goal that we're setting up, it's been done by themselves, and they don't know that it's done. And it's amazing to watch. It really is to see the village come alive and work together, whether it's laundry, we have children in our village, we have family houses. So as a village has grown, the tiny houses, children, the animals abilities, is amazing. It's been a thing of beauty to see.
Ethan Waldman 27:18
Yeah, and it, it also, it looks very inviting, you know, I'm just looking at the few photos on the website, like there's, there's nice lawn that's shared between the spaces. And there's, you know, it looks like there's some trees, like a little forest kind of behind the village. And it just looks like a nice place. Like it's not, it's not in the middle of a big parking lot in like an urban center.
Vincent Morales 27:41
So one thing we did when we tour, and this this by any means is not a knock on any program out there, because I know that every program is doing their best. And, yeah, we'll have what they can being a nonprofit, we know this. It's It's hard. It's not It's not easy, right. But we want to make sure that as you just said, our standard of housing for our brothers and sisters is with dignity, it is inviting, it is some place that I would want to go to, and I would walk in there and feel safe. It is that welcome home that they may or may not have received. So the way our program was set the way our housing standard is, that is the Veterans Community Project standard change of environment really up to this situation gives them a sense of self worth.
Ethan Waldman 28:34
Nice to how do veterans get access to the program.
Vincent Morales 28:40
So as you kind of spoke about earlier, we we are known for the Tiny Homes. That is what we also did, like I mentioned earlier was one of the first wins and didn't talk about that was the partnership with the Kansas City, eta and the VA and VA that allowed us to become the hub to issue bus passes for backwards. So I last deaths. You know, I do recall, I think there were around 750,000 bus passes issued last time and counting. I think we're like 2.7 3 million rides utilized. What that created was the ability for veterans to come to us and understand what we do it is about housing, but it's also about connectivity and referrals. Yeah, the way they can get connected I mean, we all should do the simplest thing is walking, walk in the doors of ada 25 troost and have a cup of coffee, sit down and have a conversation.
We offer hygiene, hygiene kits and snack packs. And some of the veterans who are choosing to live in housing stability crisis or may not be able to escape that at that time. Progressive engagement, keep involved there is an application process, and as well as screening and vetting and the whole line, but really the easiest way to inquire about houses or getting house is to walk in the doors of a gay 25 truce, or hop on the web page of Veterans Day project.org. or give us a call directly at 816-599-6503. And really, you don't have to have a housing crisis, or being in housing instability to come in and acquire my 1000. The average average american level long veteran lives paycheck to paycheck, some of us are two or three paychecks away from being homes. So it's that progressive engagement that allows us to be on top of our housing situation with that veteran, in case they go down that path, really is easier to stop the decline then tried to dig in individually out of the hole. Yeah. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 31:01
So is there a long waitlist for for the village?
Vincent Morales 31:05
So the answer is, the simple answer is no. Okay, more robust answer is, is that progressive engagement. So we do not have a waitlist, we have a pool of eligible veterans. So meaning I decided to walk in the door, and, you know, you're going good, and everything's working out well. And I have, you know, some hurdles that need to negotiate, they don't have a job, we're gonna sit down and talk with our board with one of our community case managers, but they're gonna continue to follow up. And then table's turned for you. And I'm actually in a dire situation laid off COVID, Whatever may happen, you know, to eat them when and how it works out. They're going to reach back to that conversation. And you may be afforded a house because at that time, what is available for you this house now in this program was what is needed?
Ethan Waldman 32:00
Vincent Morales 32:01
Once again, that that triage of the veterans where we bought servo may be eligible for different things, you know? Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. A lot of very complicated way to say yes and no answer. There's no, there's not a long list. But there is an eligible pool of veterans who we stay in constant contact with to make sure that you know that they are doing well. And they're where they need to be and also adhering to whatever standards they're setting. And yeah, we come up with housing. Yes, we're here to help. So, from chatting,
Ethan Waldman 32:35
I guess a little bit before we started recording, you alluded to additional villages, you know, groundbreaking in St. Louis and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, it sounds like you've really developed a model that you're trying to bring other places.
Vincent Morales 32:53
Yes. So we as much as we built in phases. We finished kenzi, which is home for this project. We finished it less than was actually epic. I want to say we're about 18 months now. 18. Okay. So what was happening was we were getting coverage from different cities, the veteran community. And there was, so many individuals have reached out and said, How do we make this happen in ours? And to be honest, like when we started this, as I kind of alluded to a bunch of veterans getting together drinking beer, even figuring out how we can best serve veterans in our community wasn't to say there were any other community but start off small. So once we completed Kanzi, and we seen that this was something that was needed its Veterans Community Project is needed in every city. But there's parameters that we need to be able to make this program functional. As we've progressed now. We have land acquired and are moving dirt in our building, in Longmont, Colorado.
Ethan Waldman 34:07
Vincent Morales 34:07
In two days, we will be in St. Louis, Missouri for our groundbreaking and then shortly after moving earth to building process, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, we are in development stages, their land is acquired and we are moving towards the general area. The goal is to have land identified and in within eight cities by the end of 2022. Wow, we have four additional four are being identified and working with working with us this time.
Ethan Waldman 34:43
That's amazing. Can you can you I'm sure that you can't dive into too many details. But can you talk about where your funding comes from in terms of like private donors, public government money, how does that work
Vincent Morales 34:57
and I thank you for bring that up. I do apologize about that. That was something I told you. Sir, I've kind of forgotten on that one. So for us, when we started this organization, we did not want to have to navigate all the red tape. So all or at this current time, most of our funding comes from private donors, corporations grants, we receive no federal funding whatsoever. So the first three years of his organization was every grassroots event, we get out there every way to continue to raise funds to you know, build a house, so we would go to house stop or somebody build a house top go raise some money. But at this current time, we've expanded several, you know, resources in order to for the statement of our program. One of those is actually a barbecue sauce. If you happen, you know, those are that one of them. Bravo, bravo. q.org. is a barbecue sauce that directly benefits Veterans Community Project we are in all West lakes in Kansas City, currently moving along on St. Louis and got a couple out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Cool. We have a lot of outside of the box thinkers here.
Ethan Waldman 36:27
I sauce builds homes for homeless vets, I love it, I love the direct it is on the label to
Vincent Morales 36:33
Yeah, we have a lot of outside of the box thinkers. And it's been really amazing to have this, this team come together and put this on. So that is a stream of revenue for us that helps us allows us to continue to program. We now that now that we know we've been an operation, fully operational. You know, as I said, going on less than 18 months ago, the first phase was actually up and running by 2018. So now we're able to apply for some unrestricted grant money that allows us to continue on, we have all the data to show how our method works, we are actually at a 90 sorry, 89% success ratio when it comes to our housing. That is double the national average. So we're pretty proud of that.
Ethan Waldman 37:21
And when you say the success ratio, what it what does that mean?
Vincent Morales 37:24
So that is what if a veteran comes to us, we identify what their permanent housing solution will look like. Okay, before, is it is it logistically originally possible. I think that a, you know, 50 year old veteran is going to want 10 acres in the seven bedroom house, versus, you know, a 20 year old veteran with no family that just wants a studio apartment. So each veterans permanent housing solution will be different in their given situation. But that is what we define as a as a success. Yeah, housing stability. Cool.
Ethan Waldman 38:01
Yeah. I mean, I think it's fantastic that you're doing it and that it's working so well. It's it's really, it's inspiring. And it's I'm struck that it's, it's unfortunate that there needs to be nonprofit organizations that do this work that like it, you know, we as a people, and I mean, the government because they are us elected should be doing this for our veterans anyway. But I'm grateful that you're that you're doing the work that you're doing and that it's working.
Vincent Morales 38:38
It's a, it's it's definitely been a labor of love. It has been every day is a is a blessing to be a catalyst to help change. And I'll be honest, the focus of our organization is obviously the Veterans Affairs Committee project. But here's one of the other amazing pieces of our program. And it's in our name, it's the community. We have, you know, as much as we would like to share this, what we accomplished, we only accomplished anything because of the community. It was community partners, it was mom and pop stores. It was just a family who, you know, they had a connection with the service or not just wanted to give back. The average American wants to do more than say thank you for your service. They want to assist. And we've been asked to harness that power and what really, you know, what can be what shouldn't be and, you know, how, how lucky we are to have a great nation of citizens who appreciate the, you know, sacrifice who will have made so it really isn't the community it is we were just lucky enough to kind of put it all together.
Ethan Waldman 39:52
Nice. Yeah. I actually one question that I'd written down that would fit better earlier in the conversation, but I was curious if you can share, you know, what is the average construction cost for these tiny houses?
Vincent Morales 40:05
So, initially, when we all kind of go over our phases, our first 30 Yeah, it was about 15 20,000. Okay, now, at the current standard that we build that is also, you know, if you were to build it to ours exact same standard, it would run you about 50,000. That's here in Kansas City, Missouri. Okay, we were able to get that number, as I just mentioned, kind of more manageable for nonprofit, relationship building donations, in kind, all that fun stuff. But if you have to build in Kansas City to our housing standards off 50,000. Now, per each city, that's going to fluctuate cost of living all the great things that happened, partnerships, there may or may not have been established, but the average home was about 50. If you were just to be like, you know, I'm going to go boom, a tiny home, like this. For us. It was just, you know, a lot of a lot of great partners, once again, the community that allowed us to do that. Right. I can tell you man hours alone, a lot of money.
Ethan Waldman 41:09
Yeah, yeah. What What have you kind of gotten the cost down to now that you've got those relationships in place? and and you know, you've got
Vincent Morales 41:18
that, that that currently that currently is the same?
Ethan Waldman 41:21
Vincent Morales 41:22
Here in Kansas City now in our in our in our satellite cities? I cannot speak on that. I only say that, because I haven't been involved in those conversations over the buildings. Yeah. I definitely know, though, that some of the areas that we're going into, but so long, man, St. Louis, we are working diligently to build those partnerships, so we can keep our costs down. But that takes time. Yeah. Yeah, it all takes time. I know that. As as, as when Zach, Zach came to visit us, we kind of had this conversation. And really to the standard, we built that. And for the cause he said, You know, like, it's a really amazing product is really, really amazing, Tiny Homes are even at even at 50. It's still a really good deal. Especially being you know, slab on grade ground up the whole nine. Yeah, I'll be honest, there are houses particularly are pretty cost efficient. Yeah, we are only looking at about $40. ish. And utilities, per month, per house, per house. So it is dependency or kind of it does fluctuate me in the US House. Of course, the most part, we have gotten really cost effective. Right and clean living environment.
Ethan Waldman 42:44
Right. And I mean, also thinking about all that infrastructure that you must have had to do in order to build those 49 houses, putting the electrical lines underground, the the wastewater, the the plumbing, all that kind of stuff. I'm sure that was very expensive to get that all
Vincent Morales 43:04
put in. Oh, yes. So I didn't give you the backstory of the property that we bought. Yeah, please do. The property that we bought was actually purchased from the Kansas City land bank. five acres for $500. Yeah, amazing. And we you know, once again, as I said before, just a group of veterans who can do the right thing, beers, food, good intentions. Now we have land for $500. Like we're rolling, right, this one. Until you mentioned, one of the most expensive and arduous development journeys that we've had is the infrastructure, we had no idea. And that was a very long labor of love to accomplish that to raise to raise awareness of a program to raise the development dollars in order to get the infrastructure. And now going forward, we know understand all the things that we need now, in the very beginning. It was a shocker. Yeah, Gary. Yeah. Well,
Ethan Waldman 44:14
I'm still just blown away by how much you've managed to accomplish in just a few years.
Vincent Morales 44:22
You're not the only one. Yeah. And really, you know, we look at it and we see what has been accomplished. And they're, you know, there. There is no I in team. And this project really highlights that there is, you know, we are, we are veterans and there's a group of us but really volunteer to serve our country because we love our country and our fellow countrymen, and that love is now being returned tenfold us. So we are blessed to have that. We are blessed to have amazing patriots. work alongside this amazing veterans are working alongside us. And you know, just it's really amazing to see and speaking of divisiveness in the country, but when you come around and Veterans Community Project organization as we expand, there's a lot of unity. Yeah. It's not just the very early, it's people thankful for what they have and wanting to give back. So it really is. We want to accomplish this as our fellow citizens. Fantastic.
Ethan Waldman 45:39
Well, Vincent Morales, thank you so much for for the work that you're doing and for being a guest on the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.
Vincent Morales 45:47
Outstanding. Thank you very much for having me again. I hope as I mentioned, before, everybody gets a chance to check out VeteransCommunityProject.org learn more about our organization, which cities we are expanding to, we are on all social media handles, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and you also get a chance and you like barbecue sauce, please give a look there at Bravo, bravo q.org. You may see a sauce on there that actually is called Vinny spicy sauce. All right, might want to give it a whirl.
Ethan Waldman 46:20
All right. That's That's all. That's That's all I need to hear. I'm gonna give it a try. And I will link to all of the links that that were just mentioned on the show notes for this episode. So as soon as as soon as our interview is done, people who are listening will hear me say where they can go to find all those links in one place.
Vincent Morales 46:43
Outstanding. Thank you for we are Thank you for tuning in. Have a great product. Thank you for inviting us here. I love talking about Tiny Homes, for a lot of reasons. They are therapeutic. When you're putting the community it works out. And they also make really good hunting houses profitable.
Ethan Waldman 47:01
It's true. It's true. Yeah. I mean, I live in Vermont. And that's there's a big tradition of kind of hunting cabins, very simple structures that people build in the woods deer camp. So yeah, tiny houses have lots of great uses.
Vincent Morales 47:15
Yes, indeed. I appreciate you having me today. Thank you.
Ethan Waldman 47:20
Thank you so much to Vincent Morales for being a guest on the show. please do check out the Veterans Community Project. And if you are in the position to make a donation, please do this is a really great organization. You can find the show notes including a complete transcript and links to Veterans Community Project, and the BravoBravoQue barbecue sauce at thetinyhouse.net/179. Again, that's that thetinyhouse.net/179.
Well, that's all for the show. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman. And I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.
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