Veterans returning from overseas deployments often struggle to adapt to civilian life and end up homeless and living rough.
By this weekend, over a dozen homeless veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces will move into brand new homes in a small community of their own.
The Homes for Heroes village in southeast Calgary is the first new community being built for needy former troops in Canada. The village has 15 tiny houses set in a horseshoe shape around an open green courtyard. The homes are equipped with cable television, kitchens, and outdoor decks.
Just like veterans in the United States, Canadian veterans struggle to re-adjust to civilian life after overseas deployments which took a rough physical and psychological toll on them, making the search for homes and jobs difficult.
An estimated 3,500 veterans are either experiencing homeless or living on the brink, according to CTV News.
David Howard, the president and co-founder of the Homes For Heroes Foundation, told Globe Newswire:
“Our team at the Homes For Heroes Foundation has met with hundreds of veterans who are in crisis and experiencing homelessness.
We wanted to build a program that can help them with a successful transition to civilian life. Our veterans are proud warriors, proud of their service, and proud to be citizens of Canada. They want a hand-up, not a hand-out. We listened to what they had to say, and we designed our foundation around meeting their needs.”
Opening the first tiny home village for veterans experiencing homelessness in Calgary November 1st. We want to thank all our partners for their support in helping us open the first of many Homes for Heroes Villages. Tenants move in November 1st. https://t.co/C8evqA2A6I pic.twitter.com/mCTSzVgiDh
— Homes For Heroes Foundation (@homes4heroesfdn) October 24, 2019
The complex is equipped with a resource center, a counselor’s office, and a suite for visiting family. Residents will have access to mental health support, job training, mentoring, case management, community gardens, and memorials.
Each home also will bear a plaque outside the door dedicated to fallen military personnel in “recognition to those that gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Howard said.
The Homes For Heroes Foundation built the village in collaboration with social service provider Mustard Seed and the Calgary-based company ATCO, reports CBC.
Retired military police officer Don Mcleod works with Mustard Seed to counsel and support the vets, said that veterans find it difficult to get past feelings of self-blame and shame over their rough situation, making it a challenge for them to access available services. He added:
“They don’t feel that they are deserving of anything and the position they are in right now is their own fault and there’s nothing that can be done for them.”
Howard believes it’s the community that hasn’t done enough up to this stage. His grandfather was a World War II veteran who suffered from PTSD and other issues resulting from his service. He added:
“What I saw was somebody who served our country, he came back broken and we weren’t there to help.”
According to Howard, the villages cost anywhere from $3.5 to $5 million CAD to create (about $2.7 to $3.8 million USD). He remains hopeful that the pilot village will provide a model for future communities for vets in need, saying:
“Together we are stronger, together we can create a program and we believe this will be successful.”
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