Homeless veterans are getting a new start in life at the Langetree Tiny House Project, located at 2825 CR 190 on a 98-acre farm in Raywood owned by Barbara Lange. The community provides affordable and transitional housing for veterans who would otherwise be homeless. In late October, one more tiny house was added to the property.
The most recent addition is the second tiny house to be built by students from Kingwood Park High School, part of Humble ISD, through a program called “Big Heroes. Tiny Homes. Students Helping Veterans.” The first of the two homes was installed last June.
“Not only are these students building the houses, they are being taught about volunteerism. These young people are developing a special attitude toward our veterans and the concept of giving back,” said Lange. “They have a love and appreciation for our veterans and understand the responsibility of being their brother’s keeper, so to speak. We are really excited to work with Humble ISD on this opportunity.”
The 200-square foot houses are designed to be a living quarters for the veteran but without a full kitchen or bathroom as those are communal spaces at the Langetree Tiny House Project.
“We want them to have a sense of family with the other veterans who live here,” explained Langetree regarding the communal spaces. “The houses have a bedroom, microwave and a refrigerator. As soon as we can expand our capacity for plumbing and electrical, and put in more of the basics to maintain the communal concept, then we can focus on getting more houses.”
The veterans who live in the community would have otherwise been homeless, according to Lange.
“When they come on the grounds, they have come from situations where they have been homeless. The difference between us and other agencies who help homeless veterans is that we are interested in sustainability and independence for the veterans,” she said.
Currently, six veterans live on Lange’s farm. Two stay in the main house while four live in tiny houses. Lange is hoping the community will grow to 15 homes within the next two years.
“Our dream is to take the space on the back side of the pond and put more homes there,” she said.
A strong supporter for the Langetree Tiny House Project is VFW Post 5621 in Liberty. Commander Richard Overbay and former commander Steve Vales were on hand to watch the most-recent tiny house be delivered and set up on Lange’s property.
“When I was elected commander, the VFW post in Liberty was a great social place for veterans. It functioned well in that capacity, but I didn’t drink or smoke, and came in with a fresh perspective. I had seen some brochures about mental health and I thought there was something that maybe we could do about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Vales said. “The more you study mental health and find out what makes some of these veterans want to take their own lives, the more you understand the feeling of despair they often feel because they feel no one cares about them in this country. I knew otherwise. There is a tremendous depth of gratitude and patriotism in Liberty County. We just needed some structure to get a project going.”
Not long after, he was put in touch with Lange and learned about her idea for sustainable, affordable housing for homeless veterans.
“She has a unique skill set,” said Vales. “It’s often not a popular thing when you want to be a place to help turn around homeless veterans. We have seen this play out in urban areas, but in rural areas, the need is largely unmet,” he said.
Using a portion of the proceeds from VFW-hosted Bingo games, the Liberty post began helping out where it could.
“It wouldn’t have gotten to this scale without Barbara. She found the Kingwood students on her own. She already had homeless veterans who had come here and she made arrangements for their housing. Then she went out there and found these kids who could build the houses. I didn’t even know that kids like this still existed,” Vales said, marveling at the generosity and goodwill that has been shown to the veterans by the Kingwood Park High School students.
Vales believes the tiny house project not only helps homeless veterans, it sends a powerful message to others.
“Veterans just need to know that people care about them. This instills hope in them. There are a lot of self-absorbed people out there in this country but there is a segment of the society that is just gold. They appreciate what veterans have done for this country and they show it,” he said.