Clearing the way to help Northwoods veterans in need

Tree cutting moves tiny home village closer to reality

By Eileen Persike

MMC Staff

ONEIDA COUNTY – A Northwoods nonprofit organization is a step closer to its goal of providing transitional housing for homeless veterans in the northern half of the state.

Northwoods Veterans Homestead (NVH), with help from Ponsse North America, cleared trees on three-and-a-half acres off River Bend Rd. near Rhinelander that will become the Veterans’ Tiny Home Village.

The program is the first of its kind in the Northwoods and is modeled after the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin village in Racine.

NVH’s mission is to help homeless veterans regain self-sufficiency by meeting basic needs, such as shelter, food, health and wellness and by providing supporting services through case management and employment assistance.

The goal is to have the village open by the end of 2026, with 16 homes and a community center.

“Right now, we are currently working with a contractor to give us a cost estimate of the community center itself,” said NVH Vice President Carla Ruuskanen. “We are up to 11 tiny homes that people have pledged, which is amazing. We will have the specs, and either they can build it themselves, or they can donate the money toward it, and we’ll have a contractor build it. The layout will be the same, but the cosmetics can be a little different. We want it to be natural looking, we don’t want it to be over the top; we’re shooting for a very calm and serene setting.”

It’s usually an 18- to 24-month time period that it takes a veteran to go through the program and get out and live on their own. Some may take less time, others more. The VOW village in Racine has reported a success rate near 80%, which Ruuskanen hopes to replicate in Rhinelander.

“It will be person-centric. We’ll decide, with their input, during intake what it is they need to get them to where they want to be,” Ruuskanen explained. “Instead of us providing services, we’re coordinating services, because all the services are here, it’s just connecting them now and bringing them there and getting them those supports that need to be self-sufficient again.”

Everything will be free of charge to the veterans staying at the village, which will be drug- and alcohol-free. They will earn their keep, so to speak, by doing chores around the property, cooking meals, doing yard work or cleaning. Eventually, there will be a garden that will need attention.

Creating this village, said one NVH board member, is not only a benefit for the veterans who will stay there, but for the community as well.

“It’s often overlooked how much of a resource veterans are to a community,” Ian Farb, board member and public relations officer, said. “Yes, they fought and sacrificed in some ways that people cannot even begin to understand, but the skills and the experiences and knowledge that veterans can bring to a community is invaluable. It’s a great opportunity for us to bring them back into a community in a meaningful way, that they can contribute their skills and experiences to the community and enrich it further.”

Ruuskanen said the project cost estimate at this time is between $2 million and $4 million from start to finish. Once the NVH has a firm number, it will be creating a portfolio and soliciting investors and donors. She said NVH is also putting together a “how to” guide for anyone interested in creating a tiny home village for veterans in another part of the state.

“VOW villages was integral to helping us get off the ground,” Ruukanen said. “Through that process, we were talking about, ‘How could we do this just a little better?’ Because, they helped us go, and now we would like to help somebody else go. I want to be able to hand them a pilot book and say, ‘This is what we did, here’s how we started, here’s some of the contacts and this is some of the red tape we hit.’ Ultimately, it’s not just for our egos that we do this; it’s to help people.”

Anyone interested in making a donation can do so at Northwoods Veterans Homestead, PO Box 1221, Rhinelander, Wis., 54501.

For more information, call 715-493-5328 or visit

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