Community Orgs Housing

Building a Home For Veterans in Need

Chippewa Valley Habitat For Humanity takes on new project to support local veterans

Carlee Shimek, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

HEARTS AND HOUSING. Chippewa Valley Habitat For Humanity has partnered with Grace Lutheran Church to create housing for veterans experiencing homelessness.

Multiple organizations in the Chippewa Valley come together to help veterans facing homelessness. Chippewa Valley Habitat For Humanity has partnered with Grace Lutheran Church, along with assistance from the Veterans Services, to repurpose a school building into 11 apartment units for homeless or soon-to-be homeless veterans.

“From the continuum of homelessness to home, we can have it all happen in this one project,” said John Dawson, Executive Director of the Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity.

The Eau Claire Housing Authority approved $1.14 million for Habitat to use in purchasing the school building attached to Grace Lutheran Church. Before the buying and selling occurs, maintenance updates like installing an elevator, sprinkler systems, and plumbing in classrooms, will be contracted work from professionals.

After the maintenance upgrades and purchase of the location, Habitat plans to campaign local organizations in sponsoring one of the 11 units to provide financial support and volunteer time in finishing up the internal jobs—painting, drywall, flooring, and more. Organizations can even partner with one another to sponsor a unit together. Plans are to have the units finished in late fall. 

Pictured: Inside
Pictured: Inside of old school building.

“There’s a strategic direction that we want to have, and we’re kind of in phase one—help take veterans off the street and get them an affordable place to live,” said Dawson. “The next step being to have that move from renting to ownership. That’s a big part of Habitat. We believe in generational wealth, meaning that we want people to own their house so that they can create equity over time versus rent.”

This idea of taking a building not used for housing and converting it into an affordable living space is new and not a typical Habitat for Humanity tactic. It’s a streamlined concept for providing more direct support to homeless individuals from the beginning when getting them off the street to the very end, where they can purchase an affordable house. A concept Dawson said could be used in future projects, not just this one.

“What I hope (vets) get out of it is security (and) comfort, where they can then start turning their lives around,” said Dawson. “There’s just something special about having your own place, where you can eat well, sleep well, and hold down a job.”

To learn more about the Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity, visit its website.