Video | Veteran Builds Tiny Home Village for Homeless Vets
An Air Force veteran and retired police officer had the chance to buy a campground in southern New Jersey.
Rather than start a business, Donnie Davis decided to build a community of tiny homes for homeless veterans suffering from PTSD — and provide everything for free.
A pastor of a church at the time, Davis didn't want to buy the land to build a bigger church. Instead, he and a friend hatched the veterans' community plan after watching TV's Tiny House Nation.
They started a GoFundMe Campaign to raise money to buy the land and build homes.
The campaign was recently named a GoFundMe Hero.
A little over a year later, Donnie has raised over $150K for the micro-housing community — now dubbed Operation Safe Haven. Thanks to the campaign, not only were they able to purchase the 277-acre campground, but they have also built four 300ft² homes—with a fifth currently underway.
The houses are all eco-friendly and sustainable, with solar panels all over the property and composting toilets. There’s no carbon footprint. In return for living there, residents will help take care of the property, its animals, and its organic gardens. Harvested food will go toward their own meals as well as to families in the community.
Donnie with wife Jennifer, two sons, and service dog Zeus in front of a completed micro-home.
Donations also helped to hire a registered nurse, who recently moved onsite to live and work with residents full-time. They also purchased two horses that just completed their equine therapy certification. In addition to their work with veterans, Donnie has invited local children with special needs to work with the horses at no cost.
While they prepare for Operation Safe Haven’s first residents, the property hosts a wide variety of community events throughout the week—from kids’ day camps to Sunday picnics by the lake.
“We’re able to provide everything for free,” says Donnie. “Without GoFundMe, we would have to charge people.”
“The idea is to help homeless veterans get back on their feet and contribute to society again,” says Donnie. “There’s no overhead, so all donations to the campaign go straight to the project.”
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