Dale Kortesmaki is a 54-year-old Chippewa Falls resident who lives in a small house behind the Landmark Christian Church. The church houses a couple of small houses for precarious housing.
“I am a resident of a small house. I was released from prison just over a year ago now,” he said. “Basically they put me in a hotel for 30 days, and I’m from the area and my newspaper is from the area and there’s no home or shelter.”
Kortesmaki met Mike Cohoon last year. Cohoon helps oversee the tiny house community in Hope Village.
“Mike helped me get into a Tiny Homes program, which was a really big blessing. I also worked the program. I had four things I personally wanted to work on…to change my life mentally, physically, spiritually and financially. It’s as simple as I could get it and keep it so I don’t go down rabbit holes,” he said. “So if I continue like this, it’s everything that the whole village program pushes and helps you achieve.”
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Kortesmaki said he decided to get his life back on track after serving a prison sentence. He knew he had a long road ahead of him – trying to find a job, stability and staying sober were terrifying goals at the time, he said.
Before going to prison, he ran a very successful carpentry construction business for 16 years. But he drank, he said. And when he drank, he became a different person. When and and his ex-wife divorced, he said he went through a very difficult time.
“I was very lost and broken,” he said. “I just needed someone to believe in me and give me a chance.”
Kortesmaki said he believed the Lord brought him to Hope Village.
“I have a lot of violence in my file. When I drink, I become a totally different person. So looking at that, it’s hard to, you know, that’s how people look at you,” he said.
“I have a record so people don’t basically praise me. So it was a challenge.
He said he was trying to make better choices and not repeat past mistakes.
“When I met Mike Cohoon, he took the time to listen to my short story and direct me to the right resources I needed to get my life back on track. I had to have an interview with Mike to explain to him that it’s not me, you know? It’s me in difficult times, and I went through them. I did it, “he said. “However, I am ready to make a change in my life. And I needed someone to trust me and believe in me. And Michael was there and he heard me speaking from my heart.
Kortesmaki said living in the Tiny Houses of Hope Village has been great, giving her a sense of security and stability.
“It taught me self-esteem and responsibility,” he said.
“I used to think that homelessness, poverty and food insecurity happened to people who made bad decisions or didn’t want to work, but that’s not true at all. These problems can happen to anyone at any time. These are people who just need help for one reason or another. It doesn’t matter why or how they ended up in their situation.
Kortesmaki said he hopes to continue to be a good person. For him, that means serving others, volunteering and sharing his story.
“It’s an achievement, an accomplishment, and he gave me that chance. The last thing I want to do is disappoint him or let him down. And I want to be able to be an inspiration to others who are out there who are in that scenario,” he said.
Hope Village provided Kortesmaki with the tools, support, information, guidance and love he needed to succeed, he said.
“I managed to find a well-paying job. I like that I can also pay my bills and help me save (money). There are so many things that have improved in my life with the help of Hope Village. I’m learning to live life to the fullest and deal with daily challenges as they come up,” he said.
Kortesmaki said he didn’t want to mislead people. The Tiny Homes program is hard work. There is a lot of personal responsibility and initiative attached to living there.
“I make it look easy because I really want it. But there is a structure behind all the work of the village. There is help. There are tips. There is a program that you have to do and follow,” he said. “It’s not easy all the time, but it’s like working at AA or NA. It’s just as lifesaving. He said.
Kortesmaki works to transfer out of state to live closer to his daughter. He plans to leave the small house as soon as he has all his papers in order to leave the state legally.
“I will be forever grateful to Hope Village. I needed someone to believe in me when I didn’t even believe in myself, and Hope Village was that beacon of light.