BY BRANDY TEMPLETON
Local veterans’ support organizations, community leaders and champions of Fifth Street Ministries gathered behind the nonprofit’s campus in Statesville on Tuesday morning to dedicate Fifth Street’s new tiny homes for veterans.
A collaborative effort by Fifth Street, the Piedmont Veterans Assistance Council and Purple Heart Homes, the tiny homes will be utilized to help veterans who may otherwise be homeless along the path to self-sufficiency. Fifth Street also provides transitional housing for veterans through its Heroes House off Wilson Lee Boulevard.
John Gallina, a veteran and Purple Heart Homes co-founder, said the tiny homes will provide a lifeline for veterans who are struggling after returning to civilian life.
He recalled the outpouring of love he received after he returned home from his tour of duty.
“So many didn’t get a ‘thanks,’ “Gallina said. ”They came home feeling broken, wondering if the community would accept them back.”
The tiny homes will help give veterans a fresh start, a place to rebuild, and a place to find out who they are.
“This will provide a safe haven to lay their head down at night,” Gallina said.
Iredell County Board of Commissioners Chairman and retired Gen. James Mallory said the tiny homes initiative embodies the military’s motto: “We don’t leave any soldier behind.”
All veterans “need to feel valued and not forgotten,” Mallory said.
The veterans who are placed in the tiny homes will receive subsidized housing for a year as part of a coordinated effort to provide them with services to help them.
“It’s a comprehensive program,” Fifth Street Director Michele Knapp said. “It gives them everything they need to prepare to live independently and to be successful.”
Since 2016 Fifth Street has served 67 veterans. Seventeen of those veterans have moved to transitional housing, and 94 percent of those have moved on to independent living, Knapp said.
Patti West, who retired as executive director of Fifth Street Ministries in February 2021 after working in the ministry for 31 years, remembers meeting with Julia Wilson and Amy and Mike Fuhrman to discuss a tiny homes project several years ago at Sweet Thing Bakery.
“We started talking about the tiny homes then,” she shared during the dedication. “It had to be in God’s timing.”
When Fifth Street had the chance to acquire the property where the tiny homes now stand, God’s hand was involved, West said.
“I do believe with everything in me that this is holy ground,” she said.
It takes a community to help people in need, West added. “We need to put an arm around them to help them up.”
Whether you donate to organizations helping those in need, volunteer your time, or take people to the grocery store, it all counts, according to West.
Statesville Mayor Costi Kutteh teared up as he delivered closing remarks.
Calling Statesville the “finest and best community in the world,” the mayor said the Statesville spirit is alive and well.
A long-time supporter and volunteer at Fifth Street, Kutteh was emotional as he talked about what the tiny homes mean to him.
“Except for the day I was married, and the days my three kids were born, and the days my two grandchildren were born, I can’t think of another day I feel prouder to be the mayor of Statesville,” Kutteh said.