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Harrisburg’s tiny-home village for homeless vets gets started with groundbreaking
Patriot-News - 6/2/2023
It’s been years in the making.
On Monday, officials will hold a groundbreaking ceremony to begin construction on “Veterans Grove”, a village of 15 transitional “tiny homes” and a community center for homeless veterans in Harrisburg.
The plan for the homes was first brought before Harrisburg officials more than two years ago and eventually approved by Harrisburg City Council.
For the last two years, Thomas Zimmerman Jr. and his nonprofit, Veterans Outreach of Pennsylvania, have been working to raise money to operate and build “Veterans Grove”.
Officials said Monday’s ceremony will mark more than two years of fundraising, including its latest significant donation, a $500,000 contribution from the UPMC Pinnacle Foundation. The nonprofit has raised 91% of its $4.1 million goal, according to its website.
Officials said that UPMC Pinnacle Foundation’s contribution will allow it to offer health and wellness services, job training, meals, and a network of support services for homeless veterans.
Veterans Grove will be located on a five-acre property along Front Street in Harrisburg, south of the PennDOT area.
“The reason we are here spearheading this project is because veterans deserve better,” Zimmerman previously said. “Some of the men and women have lost their way and VOPA will be the hand up to help them get up on their feet and back into society and live a life of dignity and pride they so deserve.”
The village will include 15 “tiny homes”. The 210-square-foot homes will have a full bedroom, a full bathroom, and a countertop with a refrigerator underneath. There is space for five additional homes that could be built in the future.
The 6,500-square-foot community center will include a dining hall, meditation room, commercial kitchen, offices, showers, and a community room. The village will be close to public transportation. All spaces will be accessible to people with disabilities.
The entire complex will be built in the shape of a heart with the community center being the focal point of the village.
Residents will have access to health, wellness, counseling, education, employment, and a myriad of other services.
The ground for the project was donated by Peggy Grove, and was formerly part of the footprint of the long-defunct Phoenix Steel Corp.
Zimmerman, the son of a WWII veteran, previously said that on any given night there are more than 30 veterans who are homeless in central Pennsylvania, plus an additional 20 veterans who shelter day by day.
“We believe that if you’re willing to sacrifice your life for our freedom you deserve better and VOPA will be that hand up that will give you that opportunity,” he said.
Earlier this year Jordan Ames, a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, was hired as the nonprofit’s executive director.
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