The Homes For Heroes Foundation is a registered charity developed in response to the growing number of Canada’s veterans who are facing crisis as they return to civilian life and, as a result, find themselves on the path to homelessness.
For one out of every four Canadian Forces members, the process of being released from their military career and transitioning back into the community can be stressful and complex. Due to the challenges they face in making this transition, veterans are twice as likely as non‐veterans to experience homelessness – and female veterans are twice as likely as their male counterparts to be homeless. In its May 2019 report on Moving Toward Ending Homelessness Among Veterans, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs concluded that up to 5,000 veterans are likely to be homeless in Canada.
Our mission is to provide a caring and comprehensive solution to homelessness among our veterans. We are building unique, affordable and innovative urban villages to house veterans during their transition back to civilian life; and, providing a full‐service, wrap‐around program that will deliver the resources, training and counselling necessary to ensure their success on this journey – enabling them to achieve the goal of living independently in the long term.
Housing will consist of villages of 15 to 25 “tiny” homes arranged in an inward‐facing, “barracks format” to facilitate peer‐to‐peer support. But this won’t look like a “barracks” – it will be an attractive community, set in a park‐like atmosphere. It will be a positive contribution to the host community while creating a sense of pride, identity and ownership among its residents. Each Village will also incorporate a central resource centre, a counselling office, and community garden.
Each home will be under 300 square feet in size but fully equipped with all the features of a larger home. “Tiny homes” aren’t just trendy, they are the perfect platform for someone transitioning from living rough: a safe, private, self‐contained space in which to keep their belongings, attend to their needs and start on the path to recovery within a community of their peers.
But “Housing First” is just that – the first step, and not an adequate solution by itself. Once housed, we will provide them with a customized program of resources, training and counselling necessary to ensure their success on this journey.
In partnership with leading local social service agencies, and Veterans Affairs Canada, we will offer individualized counselling and training programs for each veteran, monitoring their progress against a well‐defined and proven self‐sufficiency matrix. Residency in the Village will be transitional, with the goal of having each veteran leave the Village and re‐enter mainstream society, employed, stable and self‐sufficient, likely after one to three years, but only when they have achieved their personal goals.
Our first Village of 15 homes in Calgary is now complete and opened for veterans on November 1, 2019. We are already witnessing successful transition from our Veterans now that they have a home. Recently, we had two tenants graduate from the program and two new tenants move in. While we anticipated the average stay within our program to be two years, we are encouraged by the fact this transition process went so smoothly for these two Veterans. At our Calgary Veterans’ Village, we currently have three tenants working full time, four tenants working part‐time, and all tenants giving back to the local community.
Our Calgary Village is just the beginning. Our second Village, located in Edmonton, will provide over 7,000 bed‐nights per year for veterans experiencing homelessness. The City has provided us with a 20‐ year, $1 renewable lease on a site that will accommodate 20 homes. Our re‐zoning application, a critical hurdle for the Village, will be presented through an online public Council meeting on June 9th with a solid recommendation from the Council members. We hope to have spades‐in‐the‐ground by the end of summer and complete construction of the Village by the end of 2020.
We expect to make a significant announcement in early June with respect to land and funding for a Veterans’ in Winnipeg. The Province of Ontario has indicated that it will support the creation of at least three Villages in the Province over the next two years – likely in Kingston, Hamilton and London. As well, we are in discussion with Vancouver and Victoria to identify sites for Villages. Our goal is to build one or more Homes For Heroes Villages in every major city in the country – we expect to build at least 20 Villages across Canada – whatever it takes to realize our vision of ending homelessness among Canada’s veterans.
In its report last June, the Commons Standing Committee concluded that, with a concerted effort, the issue of homelessness among our Veterans is a problem that can be solved – and they were right. A motion was brought forward in Parliament to end veterans’ homelessness by 2025 – in five years. Although it received unanimous support it was not passed before Parliament shut down for the summer.
We have to believe, and hope, that this worthy notion will come before our leaders again. If so, the goal won’t be achieved by governments alone – they are going to have to rely on the efforts of organizations like Homes For Heroes to get the job done. We stand ready to implement our solution in partnership with communities across the county – and we hope that you will stand with us.
Together, we will get our veterans off the street; we will help them deal with the devils that haunt them; we will restore their pride, dignity and self‐respect; and, we will welcome our veteran brothers and sisters back into our society. Together we will end homelessness among Canada’s veterans.
Cameron H. Diggon, Capt. (Ret’d)
Director of Fund Development
[email protected] | (403) 850‐2746
(Note from Treble Victor Group: if you would like to get involved or donate please visit their website at https://homesforheroesfoundation.ca/)