A recent report from Employment and Social Development Canada estimates there are 2,298 homeless veterans in Canada. Those advocating for our veterans, people who have sacrificed their lives defending our freedoms, believe this number massively under-represents the problem, and the actual number is likely closer to 6,000. In a country like Canada, having any homeless veterans – those who have not successfully transitioned from their military careers to healthy and productive civilian lives – is unacceptable. Organizations like Homes for Heroes are doing something about it.
As we come to Canadian Armed Forces Day, June 2, it’s important for us as a nation to recognize those who have served and continue to serve. Men and women that have stood on guard for our country are now suffering, and it’s our turn to step up in their time of need. Our veterans should never be homeless.
Homes for Heroes Foundation is an organization that assists with reintegrating military veterans into civilian life by providing affordable housing and a robust support system. The Homes for Heroes program is like no other offered around the globe. It develops tiny-home communities across Canada that will provide affordable homes, a community of peers, a support structure designed to meet individual needs, and a sense of place and belonging. Our first tiny-home village will open in Calgary in the fall and another village will be built next year in Edmonton. We have three planned for Ontario and more plans to build across Canada.
Not being a veteran myself, I’m frequently asked why I have dedicated so much of my life to helping our military veterans. I was deeply moved by an experience I had when visiting my grandfather in Vancouver. He was a Navy veteran, suffering from PTSD (“shell shock,” as they called it then) and had become an alcoholic. At one point upon returning from the war, he was the president of a multi-billion-dollar company and years later, because of his drinking, he was a security clerk in the same building – a dramatic move from the 30th-floor penthouse office to a ground floor building registration clerk.
While my family members had distanced themselves from him because of some of the terrible things he had done to them growing up, for some reason I was drawn to him and wanted a better understanding of what was happening. What I saw was a broken man who was suffering and had been suffering most of his life because of his service to our country. I knew he wasn’t the only one, and I began the process of learning more about those who served and continue to serve our country. In 2008, I founded the Canadian Legacy Project, a charity run by volunteers, which supports our veterans in need across Canada, and two years ago I co-founded Homes for Heroes Foundation.
We have met with numerous veterans in crisis and asked them what they needed the most. Their answers all carried a common theme: our veterans are proud warriors; proud of their service and proud to be citizens of Canada. They want a hand up, not a handout. I implore my fellow Canadians to do more to help our veterans who have given and are giving so much for our freedom. Together, we have the opportunity to end homelessness among our veteran population.
Homes for Heroes is fortunate to have great partners in Canadian Pacific (CP), ATCO, the Mustard Seed and others that are making a difference for homeless veterans. CP puts on an annual fundraising event in Calgary in support of our charity called Spin for a Veteran, which will see teams of CP employees, local companies, and emergency services competing in a 24-hour spin bike competition. This year they aim to raise $400,000 for our charity, and on June 2 will host Calgarians in a family fun event celebrating our Canadian heroes. Each $100,000 raised will allow Homes for Heroes to build another home in Veterans Village. To help build more homes, visit https://spin4vets.com/donate/. ATCO has donated $1.5 million to the project, by providing the permanent modular structures our design partners have turned into homes. The Mustard Seed will manage and provide the services the residents require.
As Canadians, we can show the world how we take care of those who stood guard for our country. Show your supportwww.homesforheroesfoundation.ca.