Update on the Liberty Homes Project
Keith Howard, Executive Director of Liberty House is living in a converted utility trailer as a test of whether it provides an affordable, efficient housing alternative for those without a home of their own. After doing some of the modifications to the trailer while it was parked outside of Liberty House, Howard was offered a place to park the trailer for the rest of the experiment, in Raymond. The following are back-to-back blog posts, about the move from Manchester to Raymond, and the daily challenges Howard is rising to daily.
- Click here to read our story from April about the Liberty Homes Project.
- Click here to catch up on the previous posts. With Howard’s permission, we’ll be following along and linking to his blog weekly so you can keep up with the project.
June 22, 2015
From Oregon Trail to Two Cities Tale: River Crossing Accomplished and Worst of Times Transformed into “Welcome to Raymond.”
Like an old Western serial, this blog left the reader with a cliff-hanger last week. Among the questions unaddressed:
- Would the town first chosen for siting the experimental Liberty Home give up its opposition to me living in a converted cargo trailer?
- Would the property owner who had first offered to let the Liberty Home sit on his property do as he initially threatened and go to the media saying his town was “against veterans”?
- Would Keith ever stop singing that damned song —“Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”?
In order: No, No and Yes, although that affirmative may be misleading as I am currently singing incessantly and for no apparent reason “I Am Not a Pretty Girl” by Ani DiFranco.
Instead of the town that didn’t want us, the Liberty Home has been welcomed with much pomp, circumstance and ceremony into Raymond, a town of about 10,000 people about 25 miles from Manchester. The property we are housed on is called Sanctuary and is owned by John and Alaya Chadwick — 65 beautiful acres a couple of miles from Pawtuckaway State Park.
Last week, Alaya and I were invited to speak to the Raymond Board of Selectman, and that August body welcomed the Liberty Home with enthusiasm and excitement, making clear its support not just of this experiment but of the notion of helping homeless veterans in general. From the building inspector to the fire chief to the entire board, the message was loud and clear: Welcome to Raymond!
Yesterday, June 21, Father’s Day and the Summer Solstice, the Liberty Home was formally welcomed into the estate of Sanctuary, the town of Raymond, the state of New Hampshire, and the United States of America. More will be written soon about this welcome, but the bigger transition is from the winter of despair into the summer of hope.
June 29, 2015
The Reality of Living In Less Than 200 Square Feet
Now that the Liberty Home is in one place, and has stayed put for 10 days, the reality of living in less than 200 square feet without water has revealed the challenges of daily life. For instance:
- While I was very excited to splurge on a 12-volt coffee maker, the first morning made clear its inadequacy: a single cup of coffee took what seemed like 17 hours to brew. Given my need for caffeine in the morning, I was quickly re-converted into using a stovetop espresso maker for coffee.
- How long does one let the waste in the Loveable Loo (read: a human cat box) age before adding it to the compost pile? For that matter, how much other organic material is necessary for composting to take place? Finally, without foodstuff being composted, are any animals drawn to waste product—and how do I avoid spending time with creatures with such appetites?
- Drawing on a 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery powered by a solar panel presents a balancing act—how long can I leave on the exhaust and intake fans at night without depleting the battery? How much difference do the efficient LED lights make? Will a three-day rainstorm plunge me into darkness? (Full disclosure: I keep a fully charged car battery jumper system on site just in case.)
- People are interested in seeing the Liberty Home in person — and I’m interested in their support. Still, it is my home. Other than making my bed — zipping up the sleeping bag and throwing a quilt over it, rinsing out my coffee mug and throwing my dirty laundry in the duffle bag, what obligations do I have as a host? Because I have not yet found the proper nozzle to attach the three-burner stove to the propane tank, I’m using a camp-style single burner. Adequate for me, but not for preparing snacks for visitors.
These concerns are, of course, Cadillac problems compared to those faced by the folks who come for assistance to Liberty House every day. Men and women living in tents beside a railroad track or huddling under bridges to keep warm would likely love to worry about how to keep power on or entertain visitors. Each time a homeless person thanks me for food or clothing, I try to throw up a gratitude prayer — the prayer “thank you, God,” being my only conversation with that being. After all, I have a roof, I have electricity, I have a toilet and I haven’t yet been pictured on the front page of the paper in handcuffs.
Keith Howard is Executive Director of Liberty House, which has provided a safe, supportive, substance-free housing community for 200 American veterans (so far) transitioning out of homelessness since opening its doors in 2004.