Fairhope, Ala. - Bob Chatham didn’t serve in the military, but he’s designing homes for men and women who did by way of the nonprofit Homes For Our Troops.
Fairhope-based Chatham Home Planning has designed five specially adapted homes for wounded soldiers. The first house, for double amputee U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Travis Strong in Golden, Colo., was finished in August.
‘‘These soldiers are severely wounded, and that’s the part that gets to me,’’ said Chatham, who started working with Homes for Our Troops six months ago. ‘‘We wanted to call some local attention to the group.’’
Homes for Our Troops solicits money, building materials and professional labor, then coordinates either building a new home or adapting an existing home for wounded veterans at no cost to the veteran.
Last week, former Marine Sgt. Greg Edwards, 25, and his family, moved into their new home in Irvington, the first home in Alabama to be built by Homes for Our Troops.
Edwards lost both legs and his left hand was shattered by an explosive device while serving in Iraq.
The Edwards home was designed by a planner in Florida, prior to Chatham joining the effort.
But Chatham is now the main provider of home plans, according to Paul Gemme, senior project manager for Homes For Our Troops in Taunton, Mass., and a U.S. Navy veteran.
Chatham provides the plans at a major discount.
So far, he has been successful at finding someone to donate the remaining cost so Homes for Our Troops has not had to pay for the plans, according to Gemme.
Homes For Our Troops has built 31 houses for injured veterans, with 20 homes in various stages of construction around the country, according to the group.
The average cost of the homes is from $200,000 to $275,000, Gemme said.
The home sizes are from 1,900 to 2,400 square feet.
There are 40 veterans on the waiting list, Gemme said. ‘‘All of them should be at the top of the list and that makes our job difficult.’’
Gemme locates land and the contractor. He tries to find a builder who will donate his services and then buy a lot in that builder’s subdivision.
‘‘It helps if they are working in a subdivision they know and are comfortable with, particularly in California where a permit takes 10 to 14 months to get approved,’’ Gemme said.
All but one of the contractors have donated their services, he said.
‘‘A lot of them are veterans themselves,” he said. “Many of them work for large contractors and it’s an opportunity for them to give back.’’
The veterans are chosen for houses based on immediate need, he said.
Thus far, the most challenging house to build was for a young veteran in Pittsburgh who was blinded and lost both hands in an explosion in Iraq.
‘‘Just think about it. He can’t see and can’t use his hands,’’ Gemme said.
In that situation, the builder installed voice-activated technology throughout the house.
Design adaptations involve ‘‘every aspect of the house,’’ said Connie Williams, a designer at Chatham.
For example, she said some veterans are not able to use their hands so a pulley device is used instead of door handles.
The walkways are slanted and have handrails for wheelchair use; elevators go down to the basement; baths must have 5-foot turnarounds for wheelchairs; light fixtures and kitchen countertops are accessible from wheelchair height.
Chatham said his office staff has joined him in supporting the Homes For Our Troops’ cause.
‘‘We are a society that does appreciate the guys who go over there and the families that support them,’’ he said.