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Fighting for Our Homeless Vets

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Veterans Village

Veterans Village founder Arnold Stack is looking to use old shipping containers as shelters for veterans and others in need.

Fulfilling a request from his late father to give back to the nation, Veterans Village founder Arnold Stalk provides hope and housing to homeless veterans.

From a former motel on Las Vegas Boulevard just south of downtown, Veterans Village provides grassroots assistance to struggling veterans and others facing life on the streets.

Stalk, who has spent his career providing low-income and senior housing to Southern Nevadans, says a community-wide commitment and innovative thinking are more effective tools in combating homelessness than warehousing and reliance on federal programs.

To that end he proposes turning old shipping containers into housing units, and found support for the idea from the Home Depot Foundation, Ikea.

Prototypes of his idea can be found in the parking lot of what was the Econo-Lodge but today is home to more than 140 Veterans Village clients.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

Has the mental health situation in Nevada improved?

It has improved somewhat and there has been a lot of hard work to get it to improve. We have some serious problems in Southern Nevada and not just in downtown Las Vegas. And it’s all over the place. If you go to your average shopping center, you see homeless people. They are all over the place. So, when it comes to providing services and housing for chronically mentally ill people, we have a lot of work to do.

Support comes from

Has the state done a lot over the last few years to fix this problem?

“I can’t speak specifically for the state because I don’t know what they have in the planning stages. I can only speak for our non-profit, which is Share/Veterans Village. We don’t just serve veterans we’re opening 24-7-365”

“A lot of people come to us because there is no other place to go, especially after hours when a lot of agencies are closed. We have a lot of work to do. I don’t know what specifically the state has in mind…but we need to build housing with intensive supportive services in the housing for people who are chronically mentally ill and homeless and people who are living in acute poverty”

We heard sometimes that people living on the street don’t want help or they don’t want to move. Do see that?

“We have people that are what I consider to be career homeless people. They want to live on the streets. They don’t want any help. They want to get fed. They want to sustain their lives. That is the smallest percentage of homeless people in this valley. The smallest.”

“Then we have people on the streets for whatever reason. I take it one by one, one person, one client at a time.”  

Utah has done a lot to house homeless. Do you know why a similar solution has not worked in Southern Nevada?

“I can’t speak for the state of Utah or what they’re doing but I do know that when you take someone off the street and you just put them in a place… that is not a comprehensive solution to me.”

“We don’t have an emergency family shelter in this city. We don’t have housing for chronically mentally ill people. We don’t have housing for people who are in crisis. Comprehensive Housing.”

Explain the project using old shipping containers for housing?

They were throwaways and there are millions of them around the planet. They’re in ports around the world. They’re in salvage. Everything we do is donated. We got the containers donated. I’ve been experimenting with containers since 2007. We have two prototypes on the campus that were funded by the Home Depot Foundation, by Solar City, powered by Tesla battery packs, and furnished with Ikea furniture. It is standard eight by 40 or eight by 20 shipping container turned into a house.

This is something that can be built quick, cheap, fast and by our community. The solutions in this community need to come from the public and the private sector.   

Is this a test? Are people using them as a homes?

“They’re in development. I takes a long time to do that. Our next development is an $8 million venture. So right now, we’re raising those funds.”

What has been the reaction to the shipping container as a house?

They come out and they expect to see something that is mounted off of a freight train. When they get inside the unit, there’s skylights. There’s windows. Everything you would see from a Home Depot is inside. There’s a full bath. There’s a galley kitchen. It sleeps anywhere from four to six people. Six people in an emergency. That’s a 320-square-foot house.

Demand for services seems strong at Veterans Village?

It’s very strong. We’re not all veterans because the way I set it up is I didn’t want to wait for a grant to set it up. We don’t have kitchens in our units. We have microwaves and refrigerators. I don’t qualify for the HUD/VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) grant program, but I do qualify one by one for SSVF (Supportive Services for Veteran Families), that’s a partial grant. We’re funded by Clark County Social Services. We’ve become that place that Metro Police will bring a veteran or anyone who is in trouble.   

Why do you do this?

It is a passion I have. I cannot stand seeing people suffer needlessly. If somebody chooses to live on the street, that’s their choice and most of the people don’t. But my dad, before he died about six years ago, asked me to do this for the veterans. Every moment I have I work on this project.

To contact Veterans Village, call 702-624-5792

Guests

Arnold Stalk, founder, Veterans Village

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