The Pennies For Quarters board, from left, Matthew Rainwater, Debbie Spinks and Jerry Stewart, hopes to help homeless veterans in and around Port Angeles by providing a one-year transitional program. (Pennies For Quarters)

Pennies for Quarters seeks to build tiny houses for homeless veterans

PORT ANGELES — The Pennies for Quarters board has an idea that would give homeless veterans in and around Port Angeles a hand up and help them get back on their feet.

The plan is to build a community of 40 tiny houses, which are houses that are just a few hundred square feet, and offer a one-year transitional program as veterans get their feet back on the ground.

“It’s not going to be build tiny houses and let homeless vets live on there forever,” said Matthew Rainwater, board president. “It’s designed for the homeless veteran who no longer wants to be homeless, but needs a hand up.”

Pennies for Quarters is a new organization seeking nonprofit status for its efforts to help homeless veterans get back on their feet. In the name, the word “Pennies” refers to money or donations while “Quarters” refers to sleeping quarters.

The need in the Port Angeles community for a program like this is clear, he said.

Since 2014, the nonprofit Voices for Veterans has reported helping nearly 200 homeless veterans on the North Olympic Peninsula, including half a dozen children of homeless veterans, he said.

The Pennies for Quarters community would have the 40 tiny houses and a centralized community building, where veterans could do laundry, go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, socialize or use other services, Rainwater said.

The community would be both drug- and alcohol-free as veterans transition out of a transient lifestyle, he said.

“The goal is to get them in a position where they are able to be productive members of society, have those personal issues dealt with and get them back on their feet,” he said.

In addition to Rainwater, the Pennies For Quarters board consists of Debbie Spinks and Jerry Stewart.

Rainwater, who served in the U.S. Army for eight years and has a family full of veterans, said it has become his mission to help homeless veterans.

He said that after seeing how difficult it can be for veterans to get services they were promised from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, he decided he needed to do something himself.

He is working on getting Pennies for Quarters nonprofit status and raising money to make the effort a reality. Through a fiscal sponsor, Green Alliance for Veterans Education/Northwest Veterans Resource Center (GAVE), Pennies for Quarters is now able to accept tax-deductible donations, he said.

Donations need to be annotated for Pennies for Quarters or P4Q, he said.

Rainwater anticipates Pennies for Quarters will need upward of $1 million to create the community. That money would go toward building the houses and central building, acquiring land and paying for services.

The tiny houses would have beds, refrigerators, bathrooms, pretty much everything except a washer and dryer, he said. Each house would cost about $10,000.

Pennies for Quarters could pay several thousand dollars less per house, but the plan is to give veterans a nice place to live, Rainwater said.

“Our veterans deserve more than cheap,” Rainwater said. “Our veterans were willing to die for us and our federal government has turned its back on them.”

He’s seen support from elected officials in Clallam County, including County Commissioner Bill Beach and former commissioner Randy Johnson, who is currently winning his race for Clallam County commissioner, and from housing and behavioral health organizations, he said.

City and county planning officials have told Rainwater to keep them up-to-date once the organization finds suitable land to see if it will work, he said.

He anticipates Pennies For Quarters would need about 6 acres of land if it were in Port Angeles or up to 9 acres in the county, due to additional infrastructure needs.

Rainwater hopes to have a groundbreaking for the project in the spring, with the first 10 houses finished by the end of 2017.

He is set to give a presentation on the project at the Port Angeles Business Association meeting at 7:30 a.m. Nov. 22 at Joshua’s Restaurant, 113 S. Del Guzzi Drive in Port Angeles.

For more information, contact Rainwater by emailing mrainwater@penniesforquarters.org, calling 360-775-4222 or visiting www.penniesforquarters.org.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.