From the Manchester Union Leader-June 28. 2015
Tiny house offers hope to homeless veterans.
Keith Howard, executive director of Liberty House,
sits inside his tiny home located in Raymond.
(JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)
RAYMOND — After months of preparation, Keith Howard’s life in a tiny home has begun.
Once a homeless Army veteran, Howard will spend the next nine months living inside a 160-square-foot cargo trailer nestled in peaceful woods off Harriman Hill Road in Raymond.
It doesn’t have all the comforts of home, but it has all he needs to survive.
The tiny home is part of an experiment Howard created through his work as executive director of Liberty House, a transitional house for homeless veterans in Manchester.
It’s called the Liberty Homes Project, which began six months ago when Howard envisioned creating a home out of a converted cargo trailer — something that’s been done in other parts of the country.
“The notion is that if this goes well, Liberty House will go on transforming other enclosed cargo trailers that will be transitional homes for vets who are now homeless,” Howard said.
After finding a trailer, Howard began making it a home with help from another homeless veteran.
The next challenge was finding a place to put it.
Howard attempted to put it on property in another town, but said local officials there raised questions about the rules and regulations for such a house. He was directed to another property in the town, but was then told he could only set up a model and wouldn’t be able to live in it, which he said defeated the purpose of the project.
A home in Raymond
Elizabeth "Alaya" Chadwick and Keith Howard stand
outside the tiny home in Raymond where he'll live
for the next nine months.
(JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)
After learning about the tiny home, Elizabeth “Alaya” Chadwick came forward and offered Howard a slice of her and her husband’s 65 acres on Harriman Hill Road.
Chadwick is the director and founder of Whole Point Institute LLC and named their property “Sanctuary.”
Raymond Selectman Jack Barnes, who lives nearby, supported the project and urged Chadwick to bring the idea to the board. Selectmen gave their full support at a meeting on June 15. The town’s building inspector and other officials also welcomed the tiny home.
The trailer arrived on the Chadwick property on June 19 and Howard moved in with Lucy, his Dutch shepherd.
Howard has given up the Manchester apartment where he spent the past five years to live in the tiny home.
The water- and airtight trailer has propane heat and a solar panel on the front. It’s well-insulated, has a bunk bed with storage space, a toilet, a ceiling fan to circulate air, and a small kitchen.
The trailer doesn’t have running water, but Howard has a membership to Planet Fitness and will shower there.
Howard said running water is planned for the next trailer.
“I’m already thinking that once this experiment is over how I could design a space that’s half this size so I could tow it behind my car and live out of it and take six months off and travel the country. There’s a lot of wasted space in here,” said Howard, who spent two weeks living in the home earlier this year when it was parked next to Liberty House to get a sense of what it would be like.
A coffee can hanging on a tree serves as Howard’s mailbox. Chadwick said anyone who would like to send him a letter of encouragement can mail them to the Whole Point Institute, attention “tiny house.” She will deliver them.
Chadwick said she became involved after hearing about hundreds of homeless veterans in Manchester in the middle of winter. She established Peace Weavers, a group of people who knit neck warmers as part of a global organization called Knitting4peace.
Chadwick, whose family includes 10 veterans from all branches of the military, learned about the tiny home project when the neck warmers were delivered to Liberty House.
She and her husband, John, have dedicated their land to serving others.
“What an amazing way to be of service,” Chadwick said of the tiny home experiment.
100 hours of sweat equity
Once Howard’s nine months are up, the trailer will be awarded to a veteran from Tamworth who invested more than 100 hours into converting the trailer. The veteran, who didn’t want to be identified, has already begun looking for a spot for the trailer.
Howard doesn’t know how many tiny homes will be available in the future, but he said he hopes to have enough to meet the need.
He knows the need is great from his own experiences. Howard was homeless for six months, battled alcohol addiction for years, and still remembers the times he stole mouthwash from dollar stores for the alcohol. He contemplated suicide eight years ago, but ended up getting the help he needed to turn his life around. He has been sober ever since.
The trailers will be reused as needed. Veterans must put in 100 hours of sweat equity helping to convert the trailers before they would have the opportunity to live in a trailer.
Many people from the local area have offered their skills if additional work is needed on the trailer.
“I think the biggest message is, it’s a call to action. Communities can make a difference if people will step up, see a vision, and put their hands and feet to it as Keith says ‘sweat equity’ and do it,” Chadwick said.
Howard is blogging about his experience. The blog can be found on Liberty House’s website, www.libertyhousenh.org.
Anyone interested in seeing the tiny home can contact Chadwick through the Whole Point Institute at 895-4530.