Groundbreaking for tiny homes for homeless veterans

Students and professors with the University of South Florida's School of Architecture and Community Design have partnered with Celebrate Outreach, a group of St. Petersburg-area faith communities, to create "tiny homes" for homeless veterans. 

After three years of carefully designing and planning, the groups broke ground for their first home on Monday. 

Both USF members and Celebrate Outreach said that they hope the home can signify a fresh start for a very deserving veteran. 

"We wanted to create a tiny home, but we wanted to go beyond that and create a home that doesn't generate a burden, but allows them to have a normal life," said Josue Robles Caraballo, the faculty and research associate at USF who has helped to lead the tiny homes project. 

The tiny home has been designed with veterans in mind. It will be a 500 square-foot structure complete with living spaces, a  bedroom, a  bathroom, a kitchen and even a washer and dryer. The house will also be made to accommodate any veteran from any background. 

"Disabilities, PTSD, all the things that these solders go through that then, as veterans, they suffer through," said Yesenia Vega, a USF student who helped to design the tiny house. "We made a plan that was very open."

The small size of the tiny home will not only make it easy for a veteran to maintain, but also easy for them to afford. 

"They're going to be homeowners. The veteran will need to have some form of monthly subsidy, a steady subsidy. They will need to go through the first time homeowner counseling program, and they'll need to apply for first time homebuyer down payment assistance," said Sabine Von Aulock, the project coordinator with Celebrate Outreach. 

Jabo Stewart, a 94-year-old World War II veteran, has never been homeless himself. However, he knows firsthand the struggles and challenges veterans face when returning home. 

"You're gone for three years or four or five years and everything changes in your lifestyle," said Stewart. 

Stewart said he believes the tiny homes might be the helping hand veterans need to get back on their feet.

"If I didn't have a home, I would feel horrible," said Stewart. "If anyone could help I would feel very happy and gratified to them."

Construction on the tiny home is expected to begin soon and will be fully complete within the next six month. 

A veteran for the home has not yet been chosen. Von Aulock said that another organization will determine which homeless veteran would be the best candidate for the home as they will need to meet certain requirements. 

Only one home is currently in the construction phase, but the hope is that many more homes will soon follow throughout the St. Petersburg community.