Operation Jackson County Veterans is building tiny houses for vets in need.

Stephen Hartley, a Marine veteran who served in Desert Storm and Somalia, and his wife Krista, started their 501c3 non-profit organization in 2016 when they lost a veteran friend to suicide.

In dealing with the death of her friend, Krista Hartley decided to do some research. She discovered on average, 20 vets per day, nationally, commit suicide. Wanting to help other vets in her area, she looked to the community for guidance.

“We looked all around Jackson County to find some kind of support for veterans, but we came up empty-handed. It was then we decided we needed to do something,” Krista Hartley said.

Operation Jackson County Veterans mission is to support, encourage, and honor the veterans of Jackson County, West Virginia. Since 2016 the Hartley’s have helped many veterans in our area with a number of needs.

Veteran to Veteran Coffee Hour was recently organized to help vets reach out to other vets. The group meets at the Jackson County Library in Ripley at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of each month.

“It is not a counseling or therapy session,” Hartley said. “It is just a place where vets can meet with other vets who have had similar experiences and chat.”

Another issue concerning local veterans is becoming homeless. From Dec.1, 2016 to Dec. 1, 2017, 17 veterans and their families from Jackson County alone, found themselves homeless with nowhere to turn.

The Hartleys are trying to eliminate this type of situation in the county by coordinating with other organizations such as the VFW, American Legion, and Hunting Heros.

“In the past, we have reached out to other local organizations to help find emergency housing for any vets that are in need of a place to go,” Hartley said. “We are hoping to utilize a more efficient process in the near future.”

Operation Jackson County Veterans has signed a lease agreement with land owner and contractor, Torren Hayes. Hayes has agreed to lease 11 acres of his property on Sycamore Creek Road to the organization with the intention of building five tiny homes. Mountain Contracting Company, LLC will be building the homes which will each accommodate up to a family of five.

The plan consists of five, 200 square foot homes, not including loft space. They will be set on a permanent foundation, include a kitchen area, restroom facilities, and sleeping areas. Each unit will have heating and cooling capabilities, all electric power generated, and well water. Locking systems will be installed as well.

“Tiny homes will allow the families some sense of privacy, unlike a shelter. They are also more cost efficient.” Hartley said. “It is our hope this will help bridge the gap from being homeless to getting back on their feet.”

The homes will be temporary facilities for emergency situations. The use of a tiny home will be limited to 90 days. Depending on the situation, a stay could be extended.

Funding for the first home has been received. Once the septic system is approved, the first tiny home will be built. A grant was applied for through “Home4Good” for the next three homes and fundraisers will be held for the last one.

“We hope to have all five tiny homes completed and ready to use by the end of 2019,” Hartley said.

In January 2019, the OJCV will be doing a sweep of local abandoned homes, caves, and under bridges searching to aid in assisting any homeless vets in our county. Volunteers are always needed for these PIT (point in time) sweeps.

Operation Jackson County Veterans relies on the community for all funding. Donations can be made out to OJCV and mailed to OJCV, P.O. Box 62, Ripley, WV 25271. To donate specifically to the tiny home project, please be sure to list “Tiny Homes” on the memo line of the check. For more information on being a volunteer or the organization in general, call Krista Hartley at 304-419-4480 or e-mail krista@ojcv.org.

“Anyone can become homeless in a heartbeat, no one is immune, and it is a life-threatening situation,” Hartley said. “We want our veterans to know that someone is in their corner and wants to help set them up to be successful.”