Tiny homes for homeless vets proposed by group
By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
At its Monday, Aug. 8 work session, the Las Cruces City Council heard a request for the city’s support from a group proposing to create a village for tiny homes in Las Cruces that would be made available at low cost to currently homeless veterans and later to other homeless people.
The group was introduced by Las Cruces Fire Chief Eric Enriquez, who is the liaison to the city’s Veterans Advisory Board. Those making the presentation were Lawrence Orvis, a United States Army veterans and chaplain of American Legion Post 10; Shannon Reynolds, a U.S. Air Force veteran and co-developer of the Veterans’ Eco Village proposal; and Ernest Ramey, a U.S. Army veteran who was formerly homeless and is president of the local Veterans Theatre.
There are “many successful tiny villages across our country,” Orvis said, in eight to 12 cities that include San Diego, Austin and Portland, Oregon. The proposal is coming forward in Las Cruces, he said, “to preserve our city’s functional zero” homeless veterans status. “Our immediate focus is on New Mexico State University veterans,” he said, noting that nearly 800 veterans attend classes at the university.
“We are really looking for a partnership with the city,” Reynolds said. The group is also working with NMSU, Vista College, local veterans groups, churches, synagogues, manufactures and potential corporate sponsors on the project.
The proposed homes, he said, would be 186 square feet in size (the average home, he said, is about 2,100 square feet), on wheels and would cost $30,000 to $35,000, including wood-burning stoves, solar panels and water heaters, composting toilets and sustainable construction materials.
The homes would meet all U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Administration (VA) standards, as well as local zoning codes, he said.
The group is looking at three possible locations for a village to house the tiny homes, Reynolds said: one of two sites owned by the NMSU Board of Regents near the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum or near the intersection of interstates 10 and 25, and a site owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that is located off U.S. Highway 70 and Dunn Road. The sites range in size from 29 to 50 acres, he said.
Mesilla Valley Community of Hope (MVCH) Executive Director Nicole Martinez asked whether there really is a need for such a village.
“Is the need somehow not being met? Right now, we are aggressively meeting that need,” she said.
With assistance from HUD and VA vouchers, MVCH currently provides housing to about 60 veterans in Las Cruces, she said. It served a total of 270 veterans through a variety of programs last fiscal year, Martinez said, including seven veterans now being served in its employment program.
MVCH has no veterans at Camp Hope, its tent city for homeless people, she said.
MVCH “is a collaborative organization,” Martinez said. Mayor Ken Miyagishima asked Reynolds, Ramey and Orvis to meet with Martinez and her staff at MVCH before providing an update on the Eco Village proposal to the council.