Representatives from the Veterans Community Project (VCP) and St. Louis City officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking Sept. 9 at a four-acre site along Aldine Avenue in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood that will include a village of tiny houses for veterans experiencing homelessness and a Veterans Outreach Center to provide support services for any veteran in the St. Louis metro area.
Union signatory Castle Contracting will begin site work later this month, with construction set to begin next spring, said Adam McBride, executive director of Veterans Community Project, and former director of legislative and governmental affairs for the Missouri-Kansas Laborers’ District Council.
“Our goal is to have village residents move in by the end of the next calendar year,” McBride said. “This site is perfect for a campus such as ours in St. Louis. It gives us the space necessary to fulfill our mission and duty. It’s located one half mile from John Cochran VA Medical Center, and we have public transportation both north and southbound at our front door on Grand Avenue.”
Laborers Local 110 is sponsoring one of the tiny houses, all of which will be framed by union carpenters.
Don Willey, recently retired business manager for Local 110, got the local on board with the project last year and is encouraging other union locals to get involved.
“I would think every union trade would want to put their hands on this project,” Willey said. “Nothing happens in this country without our military services, without our veterans.”
The Veterans Community Project campus will consist of 50 tiny homes, ranging from 240 to 320 square feet, and the VCP Village Community Center. The community center will serve as “base camp,” providing case management services, education, health and wellness programming, and social activities for the veterans who live in the Village.
The Veterans Outreach Center will provide resources for any veteran requiring support services such as emergency rent and utility assistance, food and hygiene kits, employment supports, military documentation and benefits navigation and case management.
Veterans Community Project – St. Louis is being developed in partnership with the community and a significant investment from the Veterans United Foundation.
At the groundbreaking, VCP announced a new partnership with The Boeing Company, which presented a $100,000 donation for the project.
“With over 2,000 military veterans employed by Boeing in the St. Louis region, Boeing is always looking for local partnerships that are committed to providing our veteran communities with essential workforce transition support, rehabilitation and recovery programs that address visible and invisible wounds,” said Randell Gelzer, senior director of government operations at Boeing. “We are very proud to partner with the Veterans Community Project, as this brand new development is a shining example of that necessary support for our veteran communities in need.”
“I am so proud to welcome VCP to St. Louis,” said Mayor Tishaura Jones. “You’ve heard the saying ‘It takes a village’ but VCP brings new meaning to that phrase. It really does take the support of a village to help someone get back on their feet after experiencing homelessness.”
VCP was founded in Kansas City, Mo. by a group of combat veterans who resolved to stand in the gaps of a broken system that leaves too many service members behind. They serve any veteran who took the oath to defend our Constitution regardless of discharge status, length of service, or type of service. The Kansas City campus has already served more than 4,100 at-risk veterans and successfully transitioned almost 80 formerly homeless veterans into permanent housing since its opening in 2018.
“Everywhere VCP goes, we save lives,” said Afghanistan veteran and former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, who now serves as president of Veterans Community Project. “And thanks to strong civic and corporate partnerships, we have the opportunity to serve our brothers and sisters in St. Louis, as well.”
For more information on the Veterans Community Project, or to make a donation or volunteer, visit www.veteranscommunityproject.org.