Two excavators moved the earth at a Southeast Cobb Street lot Tuesday afternoon as a dump truck offloaded more. By summer’s end, two homeless women veterans will live at this address.
Until recently, the lot, which overlooks the south end of Roseburg and has a clear view of Mt. Nebo, was steeply sloped. Gradually a wide and flat area has been created where two tiny homes will sit. Eventually, this lot will be home to four tiny homes.
The project is called Valiant Seed, and it’s the brainchild of Teresa Mankin, an Army veteran and Midwesterner. Even before she moved here, Mankin was distressed about Roseburg’s homelessness problem.
So three years ago, she reached out to friends in her Midwestern hometown of Clayton, Indiana, population 500. They opened their pocketbooks to help. Then Valiant Seed won a grant from the Umpqua Health Alliance, and one from Operation Tiny Home, a nonprofit that builds tiny homes as affordable housing for veterans.
Valiant Seed purchased the lot for $32,000 and sought out the assistance of the United Community Action Network and Battered Persons’ Advocacy. BPA will make recommendations on who should be the tenants, while UCAN will take over as property managers once the homes are built.
Mankin said one thing the project doesn’t have is government money.
“We don’t want to use government money because then the government tells you what to do,” Mankin said.
Mankin said the whole community has been supportive. This lot wasn’t used for much, and some people threw their trash here, so the neighbors responded positively to the project.
“Most people were just thrilled something was going to happen with this property,” she said.
Valiant Seed hired local contractors to work on the project — Black Pearl Paving & Excavation, i.e. Engineering and Pinnacle Engineering, with Big Timber Remodel and Construction contracted to build the homes.
The homes are based on plans received from Operation Tiny Home. Each will be 480 square feet, with a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen and a combined living and dining space.
Mankin said her own Army experience as a broadcast journalist was trauma-free. But she knows many women veterans weren’t so lucky. Once home, they are at higher risk of becoming homeless than their male counterparts.
They crave safety, and existing transitional housing like that offered at Orchard Knolls on the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus often isn’t a good fit for them.
“What I’ve heard from my fellow female vets is it’s like a frat house and they don’t feel safe there,” she said.
Tenants of the Cobb Street tiny homes will be able to live there for up to two years while they work on a more permanent housing solution.
Mankin said she realizes housing four people for two years won’t solve the entire homelessness problem, but it will raise awareness that there’s more than one way to address it.
“We’re opening people’s eyes to a more affordable solution to the housing crisis,” she said.
Once this project’s complete, it could serve as a prototype for similar projects around the county.
“I think that’s the most exciting thing about this is we could replicate this in Winston or Drain or anywhere else in Douglas County that we need affordable housing,” Mankin said.