By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org
A Raywood woman is opening up her 98-acre family farm to homeless veterans. Barbara Lange, founder of Langetree Tiny House Project, is creating a tiny house community that will get veterans off the streets and into a stable, healthy environment.
“We are creating a semblance of a family in their own community. We are securing resources to help navigate these veterans through the readjustment of their lives,” Lange said. “It’s tried and proven that if you do a communal approach, it works and is contagious.”
The community of tiny houses will have communal bathrooms and kitchens, ensuring that the veterans selected to live there have social interactions with other residents multiple times a day. The first house in the Langetree Tiny House Project will be occupied by John Jolly, who came to live with Lange two years ago when he became homeless.
“We are hoping to do career development, life skills training and gardening projects,” Lange said.
According to Lange, Texas AgriLife Extension agents have committed to working with the veterans in the planning and execution of a community garden, which will help them understand how to feed themselves.
Lange is getting major support from Kingwood Park High School students, who designed, built and delivered the first home to the community, located at 2825 CR 190, on Wednesday, July 10.
“I saw an article on Kingwood Park and their plans to build tiny houses, so I called them up,” she said.
She reached Missi Taylor, head of architecture and engineering programs at Kingwood Park High School, who was excited for her students to be part of Lange’s tiny house project. Kingwood Park HS is part of Humble ISD, which has a pilot program called “Big Heroes. Tiny Homes. Students Helping Veterans.”
Over a period of 18 months, dozens of Kingwood Park students worked on the 200-square-foot house. Sarah Dalby, who graduated from KPHS in 2019, designed the tiny house. Dalby collaborated with local architects to fine-tune her plans.
Taylor said she and some of the students visited a similar micro-home project in the Austin area for inspiration. The Austin project, called Mobile Loaves and Fishes, was founded by Alan Graham and is designed to help people transition from homelessness.
“My students and I got to ask questions and get advice, and learned how to get through obstacles and the permitting process. It was moving to all of them to see what the Austin community was like. It gave them an idea of the impact they were going to make,” Taylor said.
With that inspiration as the wind in their sails, the students began construction of the home. Taylor believes the process teaches students critical thinking and how to solve problems as they arise.
“The whole process for me is amazing. Every time I saw us hitting an obstacle, they would get past it. I am just floored by these kids,” she said.
Some of the students were on-hand as the house was delivered to Raywood and painstakingly set up.
“They get to see the professionals working through their problems as they set up the house,” said Taylor, adding that every step of the process is an opportunity for the students to learn.
Humble ISD supports the project but the house was funded through private donations. All totaled, the cost was about $25,000.
“Our windows were donated by teachers. The father of one student donated windows. Another parent owns a door company and donated doors. Another teacher’s brother donated the microwave, refrigerator, insulation and sheetrock. Another former teacher built the kitchen table. The bedding and furniture was all donated by teachers, as well as the plates, linens, toiletries and canned goods,” Taylor said.
Wisenbaker Builder Services donated all the cabinetry and flooring.
“We will be building a house per year from here on out,” Taylor said.
The next tiny house is also going to Langetree Tiny House Project.
“This has given me a whole new perspective on education. I am an architect and worked in the professional industry for years. I became a teacher after I had children because it worked with my kids’ schedule,” she said. “I’ve worked on hospitals, skyscrapers and office buildings, but to work with kids who get it, seeing their hearts and how much they care, it floors me every day. I try not to cry every time we hit a new milestone.”
The millennial generation might have a reputation for having their noses in their electronic devices and being unaware of what is taking place in the world, but Taylor said it’s undeserved.
“These kids work on these houses without the expectation of credit. They are happy if I show up with water. The expectation is they are showing up to work and to give the house to a veteran. They know someone is going to benefit from it and that is a blessing,” she said.