Clara White Mission plans tiny house community for homeless veterans in LaVilla

A local non-profit is planning to build a village of tiny homes for homeless veterans in Jacksonville’s LaVilla neighborhood.

The Clara White Mission wants to build at least 10, possibly up to 20 homes across the street from its headquarters.

The tiny house community would serve once-homeless veterans, with the goal of accommodating more women with children.

“Those men and women have protected us over the years,” said Clara White CEO Ju’Coby Pittman, who also represents District 8 on Jacksonville’s City Council. “We owe them that, to give them a safe haven.”

Action News Jax got a look inside one of the homes that could be a part of this community. It’s less than 200 square feet, and is located at Eco Relics, one of the partners in this project.

Eco Relics is also being assisted by groups such as the U.S. Green Building Council of Florida.

The homes are sustainable, eco-friendly and largely built out of repurposed materials. Veterans themselves would have an opportunity to help build them, and would learn concepts such as solar design and energy measurement and management.

“We’ll train them on these techniques, we’ll teach them how to think green and design green,” said Sarah Boren of the U.S. Green Building Council. “Veterans will help veterans build houses.”

Clara White leaders say home ownership is the ultimate goal of this community, for veterans who were once on the street. They say for men and women returning from war, the smaller space a tiny house provides is an attractive concept.

It gives them a sense of community,” said board member Michelle Paul.

The Clara White Mission does not own all of the land its hoping to use for this project. The city owns most of it, including where the old Genovar’s Hall is located.

The nonprofit wants to renovate the dilapidated building, and turn it into a community center that would serve the veterans who move into the tiny homes.

“I thought it was a good idea, I still think it is,” said Navy Veteran Jeff Wilbanks, who currently stays at the Clara White Mission.

Downtown Investment Authority Interim CEO Brian Hughes told Action News Jax: “There has not been any formal proposal or request at DIA,” and “Clara White Mission does important work for people in need, and we appreciate them for this work.”

The Clara White Mission hopes to secure funding for the project through those willing to ‘sponsor’ a tiny home.

Those who are interested should reach out to Michelle Paul at (904) 705-4442.

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