As most of you already know, I have been working construction here in Tulsa since 2004, and for Randy Branstetter off and on for 14 years as a carpenter, contractor and now as a superintendant.
All of this has been to support my family as I have navigated the call of God upon my life into Christian missions. Typically, we go somewhere, pioneer or build something, and then donate it to local leadership. This has resulting in pioneering over 60 Bible schools in 8 countries, and over 30 missions trips across USA and Canada to various native American reservations and communities.
Interesting how God works. Last winter, when driving out to Jenks on the Varnell project, I met this homeless vet in the freezing rain, with his cardboard sign on Jenks bridge. 2 weeks later, I got a flat tire at that spot and pulled into the QuickTrip there to see If my tire might air up. That same vet came over to me at the air pump, and found the nail I picked up in my tire, pulled it out, had me go into QT and buy a plug kit, then plugged my tire and helped me get back on the road to work that day. Had a chance to visit with him, and discuss where he was staying and how he ended up on the street. Seems that he suffered from PTSD after his tour of duty in Afghanistan and was unable to find a job. He tried the shelters but said: “Hey with all the violence, thieves, and bedbugs in the shelter, its safer for me out here on the street’. I felt compassion for this guy, and then I got angry, as I discovered how many vets are currently living on our streets. Being who I am, I thought to myself: ‘What can be done about this?’ Then I heard this song on the radio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_RjndG0IX8
So I told one of my running buddies, Col Larry Henderson (LtCol Army Retired) who had just retired after serving 32 years in the army what did he think should be done? He sent me a video informing me of the Veterans Community Project(VCP) in Kansas City, then loaned me his van to drive up there, meet with leadership, and get a site tour. Impressive, but entirely doable…
The heart of their program is connecting vets with community support that they are generally not aware exists, or that is too complex to navigate without some skilled help. My wife and I were invited to watch the Bedlam game over at ‘The Coffee Bunker’ (https://www.coffeebunker.org/) here at 41st and Sheridan, and were treated to a full turkey dinner while attending. I made an appointment with Dr Michael Horton, the director there and learned that that already offer ‘transitional service support’ helping vets get VA benefits and doing advocacy with the military where needed (like in the case where a guy did something stupid and got dishonorably discharged). After that meeting, I was so impressed with Dr. Horton that I asked him point-blank: “Sir, If I can get this thing built, are you willing to move your offices over there, to provide the support services needed for residents?” He said yes, and has been helping me immensely. https://www.chrisaomministries.com/2020/01/veterans-tiny-home-community-tulsa
He already has a group of retired vets helping volunteer to help other vets, and If you get a chance, I would suggest you drop in there sometime for a free coffee. Great people, great atmosphere – there is still honor in America!
Before all this covid BS began, I scheduled myself at a Tulsa City Council meeting and presented this need at City Council. While many councillors were supportive, I have not see any direct support yet from the City.
As our discussions continued, he informed me that there have already been 400 permanent housing units made available to vets, but that what I am suggesting would fill a critical need in the community, because it has been his experience that the shelf life of homeless vet dumped into an apartment or house is usually only 60 days, before they self destruct from either casino or partying lifestyles.
In our model, there are case managers put in place (one for every 10 residents) that meet with people daily and offer everything from cooking classes to job training labs, that result in the development of strong community support for each other to make it. (No Man left behind) The community building in Kansas city even houses a medical clinic, dental clinic, and a dog wash room as many vets have service animals that also need care.
Typical length of stay in one of these tiny homes is 3-6 months before moving into permanent housing. Dr Horton introduced me to the term:
stay in a temporary camp without cover.
This gives residents time to heal, get healthy and most importantly develop healthy friendships and community support, so they are not alone anymore.
I did not have the priviledge of serving in our military, (though my dad did 32 years in the navy, and my 92 year old father in law is a retired naval pilot) but the statement rings true: “I just want to be an American worth fighting for”.
As a Christian patriot, I believe that Jesus will help us to better care for our warriors.
Construction being what it is, with Randy doing site prep on the new subdivision at 81st and hwy 75, I was diagnosed with covid, and Randy laid me off. I received my full medical release a couple weeks ago to go back to work, but there was not work to go back to.
Suddenly, we were in a world of hurt as a family and it looked like I would become homeless, as we had no money for this months rent, and nothing coming in in the immediate future. When I went back to Randy, and asked about my job, he said he had nothing until Jan possibly, but then made me an interesting proposal. He knew I had been to Kansas City and spoken at City Council about building this housing facility to help homeless vets, and said: “Chris, if you can get land donated to build this veterans homeless project, I could probably generate enough support to pay your salary while you build it.’ Lets just say, I got motivated!!!
I emailed council and asked them to donate land for this, and Cass Fahler said that he felt the City was not willing to donate land, and that I should look into private donors. So, I contacted some friends at Asbury that I knew from our weekly city elders meeting, and Jerod Buswell put me in touch with Life Park Christian Church at 61st and Union, and they invited me to their weekly service to meet with pastors and board members and share the vision for this project. It turns out that they felt the Lord has already been dealing with them to help the Tulsa homeless community, and they own enough land to possibly supply 2-3acres needed to build the community center and first 10 tiny homes! So we agreed to dream together, and see what could be done to make this happen. Randy immediately paid me that week preventing disconnect of utilities and insurance on vehicles. Another friend, from Victory Christian Center, who serves on our board, paid my $1000.00 rent this month. I take this as the fingerprints of Gods direction upon my life.
So, away we go…Much happened last week. Randy reviewed the site, and gave suggestion for best location on their land, and I met again with Life Park leadership and got the potential location approved, pending formal approval from the communities that currently meet in their mult-use facility.
I am trying to get one of the dirt crews to donate a machine and operator for a day to move a pile of boulders to create a water feature and prayer garden, and at a later date, leadership from the church will meet with Randy to finalize plans, and potentially stake out the best potential site for this facility.
I will work with Randy to put together pricing on the whole project, and we will solicit donations from the VA and every other organization that might potentially support vets.
From the construction point, I’m looking at:
A 300-5000sf metal building to serve as a community center, food pantry, and offices for case managers.
Qty of 10x(16×20’) furnished cabins to serve as initial residences.
My question to you is: Are you willing to help in any way?
My cell number is 9182695350, either give me a call or text. (text first is best)..
Thanks in advance!
For God and America
The question is, are you willing to help me build this thing?
Qty of 10 16×20’ cabins or sheds that can be finished out to provide residences.
A 40×60’ steel building