In Southeast Calgary’s Forest Lawn region, a quaint arrangement of tiny homes dots the landscape. It is surrounded by sprawling community gardens and thought-provoking war memorials.
The community may be small, but it speaks volumes to the hearts of those who listen. These modern, minimally decorated dwelling spaces stand out in the area. It’s not just because they are artistic from an architectural perspective, but also, because they are the very first of their kind in the entire country.
Via Homes for Heroes, Canada has just Constructed Its First Tiny House Community Designed Specifically for Homeless War Veterans
War has a lasting effect on soldiers, for better or for worse. War has been known to intensify emotions like fear and paranoia. It puts soldiers in a near dreamlike state, where everything around them is happening to an extreme. Needless to say, returning home from this nightmare has its fair share of obstacles. But not all soldiers have a home for which to return.
According to recent statistical data provided by Homeless Hub, approximately one out of every four Canadian soldiers is at risk for homelessness. Reasons for this vary, but some of the most common include:
- Difficulty transitioning from military service to a full-time career
- Difficulty transitioning from a warlike atmosphere to a civilian atmosphere
- Being cut off from civilian life for extended periods of time and henceforth having a late start in establishing necessary financial essentials such as lines of credit and levels of higher education
- No financial or mental health support upon return
- Post-traumatic stress
- War-induced injuries and/or physical disabilities such as loss of limbs, eyesight, and traumatic brain injuries to name a few
- Difficulty overcoming sexual trauma experienced during time of service (This is a lesser spoken about phenomenon that usually adversely affects women but some men have also spoken of sexual abuse and/or harassment occurring at the time of service)
- Addiction brought about by stress and violence
- Like all homeless people, lack of affordable housing is also a leading cause of homelessness for veterans
When life is a battlefield, the lines between reality and fantasy can blur in unexpected places. As such, at least 11% of Canada’s soldiers return home from war with PTSD. Due to a lack of resources and social support, some former soldiers attempt to numb their pain with alcohol or drugs. Others suffer in silence, taking the stress inward until it eventually manifests in other aspects of their social lives.
As they become increasingly more isolated from family and friends, the risk for homelessness escalates as well. It is but a silent bullet hovering in the trenches, waiting to strike these unsuspecting citizens at nightfall.
When Home Becomes a No Man’s Land: Identifying Needs Unique to Homeless Veterans
One of the main reasons there is no one-size-fits-all fix to homelessness is the fact that each subset of the homeless community has unfilled needs unique to their personal situations. This holds true for homeless veterans who face a myriad of obstacles particular to them. Some examples include the needs for:
- understanding lived war experience ranging from military terminology to key stressors. When the general population lacks basic understanding, peer supports falls short of expectations.
- structure and routine as part of daily life
- guidance through career and civilian transitioning
- assistance with adapting current skills to a new lifestyle
- many different types of therapy
What Canada is Doing to Address the Issue
In an effort to end the homeless crisis, the Canadian government has made use of a $700 million fund and several innovative tactics. The Calgary construction is one such tactic that shows more than a glimmer of promise and of hope. The project, complete at just under $5 million per village, provides safe, albeit small residential properties for veterans who would otherwise be homeless.
The village is meant to support the transition into more traditional housing options such as home ownership. Everything about the community is built with that mission in mind. In addition to a safe space to call home, other community perks include:
- A resource center
- Peer support groups
- Community gardens
- Memorials dedicated to commemorating the lives of fallen soldiers and much more
More to Come?
Homes for Heroes aspires to build two veteran villages in each major municipality moving forward. If the program garners mass appeal, it could serve as a blueprint for other cities, perhaps even other countries. Canada has proven itself an international leader in its efforts to end homelessness but there is still much more work to be done.
If you approve of this project and wish to see more like it, be sure to tell your local political representatives.