Pennies for Quarters, a group founded by Army veteran Matthew Rainwater, wants to build 20 to 30 tiny homes as transitional housing for homeless veterans on property in west Port Angeles off Butler Street. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

Pennies for Quarters, a group founded by Army veteran Matthew Rainwater, wants to build 20 to 30 tiny homes as transitional housing for homeless veterans on property in west Port Angeles off Butler Street. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

Pennies for Quarters signs contract on Port Angeles property

PORT ANGELES — Pennies for Quarters, the brainchild of a former military policeman to provide free, temporary, tiny-home housing for homeless veterans, has found new life after pollution soured a property purchase.

The nonprofit group had wanted to purchase land at 1430 W. Lauridsen Blvd. for the project.

But environmental concerns nixed the idea, Pennies for Quarters president and founder Matthew Rainwater, an eight-year Army veteran and U.S. Border Patrol agent, said Sunday.

Things began looking up Thursday, he said.

That’s when the group signed a $170,000 contract that must be fulfilled by Aug. 1 to buy Dan and Shelly Thomas’ 6.3-acre grassy parcel located next to a barn off an unimproved portion of road at 1502 Butler St. west of downtown Port Angeles, Rainwater said.

The Lauridsen Boulevard property was 22 acres and would have cost $550,000, far more, but larger, than the Butler Street parcel.

“The price is much more reasonable,” Rainwater added Sunday while standing on the site not far from the Coldwell Banker-Uptown Realty for-sale sign.

“The fact that it’s in the city limits, we have access to sewer and water and power — it’s incredible.”

Rainwater is hoping that by the end of 2020, Pennies for Quarters can raise enough contributions for 20 to 30 tiny homes of about 240 square feet each, where homeless veterans can live for up to two years while they get their lives in order.

Veterans from Clallam and Jefferson counties will be eligible for the program.

Rainwater said the Port Angeles project could be the first group-oriented tiny-house effort of its kind to help veterans in the state of Washington.

That the project is for “distressed” veterans who are homeless and might have attendant issues such as drug problems or, for example, post-traumatic stress disorder, “is a nice way of putting it,” Rainwater said, pointing to the severity of homelessness among veterans.

“They did their time in the service, and for whatever reason — there’s a plethora of reasons, whether it be PTSD, addiction issues — they found themselves homeless and living on the streets.

“As a veteran myself, we all were willing to give up our lives for the country, we should be willing to do a little bit more to help them out.”

Participants will sign a code of conduct that will include no alcohol or drugs on the premises, including medical marijuana, and they will be subject to random drug urinalysis testing.

“Our emphasis is, if they come to us and they have addiction issues, that is not a disqualifier,” Rainwater said.

He expects the veterans to be from their 20s to their 60s — mostly men, but women will be eligible, too.

Voices for Veterans, a Clallam County nonprofit, helped 767 veterans during three stand-down events in 2016 that assisted homeless veterans, veterans in need and their immediate family members, according to the group’s website, www.voicesforveterans.org.

Rainwater said participants will have to be honorably discharged and actually be homeless and not, for example, living in a trailer on a friend’s property, or need rent money, or be on the verge of eviction.

The number of tiny homes was scaled down to fit the Butler Street parcel, from the 40 that would have been built off Lauridsen, Rainwater said.

They are intended for one person to live in but couples also will be allowed, as will families of up to four people.

The goal is to not turn away veterans in need, he said, citing tiny-home features such as fold-down beds and desks that provide more space than conventional houses.

The project will include a “chow hall” for residents because the tiny homes probably will not have kitchens, Rainwater said.

There also will be a common-use building with a laundromat, a worship area similar to a nondenominational military chapel — “The religious aspect for recovery is huge,” Rainwater said — and a room for financial and other counseling, therapy sessions and other meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

A manager will run the project, which does not have a name yet, he said.

“Our hope is that they get back on their feet and they move out on their own and be productive members of society faster than two years,” he said.

Rainwater is president of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit’s board of directors, which is composed of board Vice President Debbie Swanson, a Clallam County Economic Development Corp. business support associate; Treasurer Stacy Mishler, owner of Ridgeline Wealth Advisors LLC of Port Angeles and Stephanie Hyatt, a Port Angeles attorney.

Rainwater said he expects to reach out to property owners in the area and hold neighborhood meetings to explain what the project is about.

He doesn’t yet have a fixed cost for construction of the houses, which will be done in stages with, he hopes, 10 built in the first stage, along with the chow-hall building.

“Fundraising is kicking into gear again,” he added.

“When we were under contract for the property on Lauridsen, we had a couple of people who were willing to donate all the money for the property once we passed the environmental study.

“I’m expecting and hoping that will happen again.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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