“Tiny House” experiment for Homeless Veterans in New Hampshire.
Liberty House Project Finds Home in Raymond
Raymond Area News
By Penny Williams 2-19-16
The Liberty House in Manchester for more than a decade has been providing a safe, supportive, substance-free housing community for American veterans transitioning out of homelessness. Since opening its doors in 2004, staff and volunteers have helped more than 200 homeless veterans rejoin their communities and regain independent lives.
Now the Town of Raymond has stepped forward to help Liberty House in a project to test the conversion of a cargo trailer into a temporary home for a homeless veteran.
Keith Howard, executive director of Liberty House, came up with an idea that grew into a full blown project to offer veterans a temporary home, allowing them time to transition back into the community of their choosing. But without the support and cooperation of the community of Raymond, things might not be moving forward as successfully as they are.
Howard envisioned creating a “small house” that would be affordable and moveable. He refit an 8-foot by 20-foot cargo trailer he obtained in Maine into a “small house” as a way to offer veterans a housing answer as they leave Liberty House and return to their community.
"I had to put in insulation, a new floor, walls and four windows and two skylights," Howard said. "We put in electricity, a waterless toilet, a bed, room for a rocking chair and a small table and storage space, as well as a stove top and refrigerator and two propane heaters. The 'little house' does not have running water but as we move forward converting future cargo trailers, we will probably think in terms of adding water."
Howard needed a place to put his converted cargo trailer to test its practicality as a temporary home. If it were to be of help to homeless veterans, it had to be something a community would accept and support, he said.
“Having a place to live will provide a veteran a home while he gets his life back on track and transitions back into his community," Howard said. "I tried to locate the converted cargo trailer in a nearby town but the town officials weren't excited about having me. Then I was invited by Alaya Chadwick and her husband John to put the converted cargo trailer home on their land in Raymond.”
The Chadwicks own 65 acres on Harriman Hill Road, and their property is aptly named “Sanctuary."
Howard worked with another veteran from Liberty House who put in more than 100 hours of labor on the project. After Howard tests it out for a year at its Raymond location, the veteran will get the “little house” and take it to Tamworth, the community where he wishes to live.
Howard is spending a year living in the “little house.” He moved in during June of 2015 and will remain until June 20, 2016.
"The Raymond Board of Selectmen have taken the project on as their own and I have spoken with them several times,” he said. “They are willing to be ambassadors for the project to other communities who might be willing to accept this project. The selectmen would be willing to explain to other communities how this experience went and explain there were no problems associated with it."
Selectman Jack Barnes even spent a night in the converted cargo trailer and found it a doable experience. Barnes, a former long-time state senator, said he has been associated with Liberty House over the years and noted it does a good job getting homeless vets off the streets.
"As a selectman I wanted to help the veterans," Barnes said. "I am not speaking for the board, but the vote was 5-0 to approve the project so I assume the others wanted to do what they could to help the veterans as well by supporting the project. If we can help homeless veterans by supporting this, then that's a good thing.
“I can see that this sort of thing could be used to help other homeless people, not just homeless veterans,” he added. “I am willing do whatever I can do to help vets."
Barnes said when he spent the night in the “little house,” it was 80 degrees when he arrived, but Howard cautioned him to turn the heaters off before he went to bed. Barnes said he did so and through the night the temperature inside dropped to 34 degrees by morning, but he survived the night just fine.
"It is a much better place to be than out on the street," he said.
The transformation of a cargo trailer into a living space requires insulation, simple wiring, and the purchase of a waterless toilet, propane-run heater and stovetop. The transformation costs less than $10,000, including the trailer. With a donated trailer, the price drops to less than $1,500.
Howard is documenting the trailer’s transformation and his experience living in it through regular blog posts, photos, and video updates to the Liberty Homes Project webpage. Visit libertyhousenh.org and click on Liberty Homes Project.
The Liberty Homes Project will offer Liberty House residents the opportunity to earn affordable and sustainable housing through putting in 100 or more hours of sweat equity, their own money, and community donations in the conversion of a cargo trailer into a livable, movable home.
Howard said he and his dog have found living in the “little house” a doable situation.
"I am lucky that I leave the house for 10 to 11 hours each day to go to work," he said. "I am not sure how it would be to have to be there 24/7. This project will continue and we plan to convert more cargo trailers and they will go to veterans who put in the required hours of sweat equity converting the cargo trailer into a livable home."
A certificate of appreciation was presented to Senator Kelly Ayotte from the Disabled and Limbless Veterans secretary Richard Redican.
Ayotte said of her visit to the Raymond site of the Liberty House Project, "This afternoon, I was honored to join representatives from Disabled and Limbless Veterans to help them present a check to Liberty House. Executive director Keith Howard and the team at Liberty House work around the clock to provide a support system, and substance-free housing for veterans who are transitioning out of homelessness. I also toured Liberty House's newest project - the Liberty Home, which is a converted cargo trailer modeled after a "tiny home" and is designed for space and efficiency so that Liberty House can work to give homes to a larger number of homeless veterans. "