The cluster of tiny homes in the city’s southeast won’t only house homeless military veterans, says a general who at one time commanded some of them.
They’ll be a reminder to those ex-soldiers of their earliest days of service and camaraderie, said Brig.-Gen. Stephen Lacroix, who commands the 3rd Canadian Div.
“If you look at the set-up of the village, it’s not a fluke, it’s deliberate attempt to reproduce what soldiers know,” said Lacroix, while gazing over the 15 homes arrayed around a flagpole whose maple leaf snapped in a brisk wind.
“We go through training and courses in our careers in places like this…we benefit from each others’ help, encouragement and challenges and come out better at the end.”
Most of the 280-sq.-ft. homes will be occupied this coming weekend by military veterans who’ve had a difficult time adapting back into civilian life.
Post-traumatic stress is a factor for some and they’ll have access to counselling at the 908 ATCO Village spearheaded by the Homes for Heroes Foundation.
“Simply building a home was not going to solve the whole problem, we need a full support system to ensure tenants do not end up back on the street,” said foundation president Dave Howard.
Some of the units, he noted, are built to accommodate those with physical injuries.
Each of them bear the name of a Canadian soldier who fell during the Afghan combat mission.
“It goes to show the Calgary and Canadian communities care deeply about those who have stood on guard for Canada,” said Howard.
The foundation hopes to have similar villages across the country, with land already procured for one in Edmonton, he said.
That’s because the need is great, considering an estimate of 3,500 homeless veterans, said Howard, is almost certainly a conservative one.
“Veterans are proud and they do not self-identify,” he said.
“This will not be an easy task, we will have our critics but as you can see today we are very proud of what has been built.”
Veterans comprise about 10 per cf the country’s homeless population.
Howard said the goal of such housing projects is to put an end to veterans’ homelessness.
Built on property acquired from the city at a discount, Howard marveled at how swiftly the project has come to fruition, noting the land it sits on was re-zoned less than a year ago.
The Mustard Seed will operate and provide counselling at the village, which has received major financial support from CP Rail and ATCO.
Considering what veterans have given the country, “it is a very small gesture…their selfless efforts to advance global security and freedom should be cherished not only at times of remembrance but throughout the year,” said ATCO Ltd. CEO Nancy Southern.
Once village residents are back on their feet, it’s expected they’ll make way for other needy veterans.
Cost of constructing the villages, which include a resource centre and community garden, is $3.5 million to $5 million.
In an unrelated development, a residence for 40 homeless veterans is under construction in Ottawa.
The Andy Carswell Building, named after a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, is expected to open a year from now.
on Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn
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