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Vets' facility board moves forward with 'tiny homes' plan

February 20, 2019
A nonprofit that aims to provide housing and rehabilitation to area veterans is looking to purchase 40 to 50 acres near Leavenworth for a "tiny home" community.

The Southern Indiana Veteran Living and Rehabilitation Facility's president, Desley Snyder, said the end result will not be a shelter where people stay for just a couple of nights and leave.

"Think of a type of co-op with rehabilitation programs for veterans," Snyder said, describing the board's vision for the nonprofit. "Nobody will live there for free. They'll have to contribute to the facility somehow."

Board members, in the process of drafting a formal plan, shared their thoughts with a half-dozen interested community members in attendance at the board's Feb. 13 meeting at the Harrison County Government Center in Corydon.

The group had its sights set to house veterans in the former English Elementary School building, but, after pushback from the community, it has refocused on building tiny homes.

Crawford County District 1 Commissioner Daniel Crecelius reassured the board that criticism from the community was targeted at the choice to use the building, not at the idea as a whole.

"I know it's a little disheartening, with the English school, but the majority of Crawford County residents support this," said Crecelius, who serves as vice president of construction/maintenance for the group.

He said the small community of tiny homes would be a better environment for veterans anyway.

Snyder laid out the board's basic idea: a bunch of tiny homes with a community center in the middle. The site will take in veterans regardless of where they're from, but they will be vetted heavily.

The nonprofit's mission is to serve the veterans of Harrison, Crawford, Washington, Dubois, Orange and Perry counties.

Snyder said the group is looking at land in Crawford County because of its centrality, and its distance from metropolitan areas means it has a greater need for the rehabilitation facility.

She said purchasing 40 to 50 acres of land will give the facility room to grow.

"We're going to do it in phases," she said. "As we add facilities, we'll need quite a bit of acreage."

Snyder said it's too soon to estimate how many veterans may be housed. She said it will likely start with small numbers and then grow drastically as word gets out.

"It'll grow if it's done right, and we're going to do this right," she said. "We've got to, with this many people watching everything we do."

Jerry Spanbauer, a veteran who lives in the Eckerty area, was recently named vice president of marketing and research. He said the group is considering the details of several options for the homes, many of which are dependent on the specifics of the land purchased.

Spanbauer said quotes for 12-by-30-foot and 14-by-32-foot tiny home options ranged from $6,000 to $7,000 each.

One attendee warned the board that it could cost about $1,500 more per unit to add individual bathrooms and kitchens. He said one possible solution is to build a separate, communal kitchen and bathroom facilities.

"Everything is on the table right now," Spanbauer said as he encouraged attendees to share ideas.

Vice president of fundraising Jim Fraze said the group plans to make an offer on some Leavenworth property in the near future. In the meantime, the board is focused on fundraising and developing a formal plan with the New Albany architecture firm Michell Allen and Ritz. That plan will be presented at the Southern Indiana Veteran Living and Rehabilitation Facility's next board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 27. The board of directors meets every other Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Harrison County Government Center in Corydon.

A pork chop dinner to raise money for the Southern Indiana Veteran Living and Rehabilitation Facility will be Saturday, March 16, from 2 to 6 at Fairview General Baptist Church in Eckerty. The menu will include a pork chop, baked beans, slaw, creek fries, dessert and drink for $10 per person.

A silent auction will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. at the fundraiser.

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