Homes for Heroes Veterans’ Village almost ready for occupants

Crews accept the delivery of the first tiny home unit at the Homes for Heroes Kingston Veterans’ Village on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. Photo by Dylan Chenier/Kingstonist.

The Homes for Heroes Kingston Veterans’ Village, which will offer transitional housing for veterans experiencing homelessness, took a major step forward on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, as the first units were put into place. The Kingston Village, located at 730 King Street West, is the third of its kind in Canada, and $6 million has been raised to construct 20 units in the city’s Portsmouth Village neighbourhood.

According to Mark Hutchings, chairman of the Kingston Village, the units should be ready for occupants by the end of the year. “It is looking awfully good… This is the first of four units that will be [installed] today,” he said as crews worked to install the first tiny home unit. “We hope [the project] will be finished by Christmas and ready for occupation.” 

After being assembled in Barrie, Ontario by Northern Shield Developments, the units made the three-plus hour journey to Kingston, arriving on Thursday. Construction crews were on hand as cranes lifted the tiny homes onto pre-assembled steel platforms. 

As for what the specific units will look like, each tiny home will be 300 square feet and will include all the necessary amenities for residents. “Each [unit] will be completely finished for the user. It will have a bathroom, kitchen, living room, and a bedroom,” stated Hutchings. According to a press release shared by Homes for Heroes in advance of Thursday’s event, the small size of the units should provide residents with the support they need to succeed. “Homes are deliberately kept small in order to provide a more conducive environment to residents (larger spaces are harder for the homeless to live in and maintain),” read the release. 

Aside from individual living spaces, Hutchings confirmed the village will also include additional services through a Veterans’ Resource Centre. “There are three other units which will form the basis of the Veterans’ Resource Centre, where they will have offices and clothes dryers and washers, and a games room,” he said. 

Hutchings noted that organizers will work with local social service providers to select the village’s first 20 residents who will be provided with transitional housing and other supports. “These people are very carefully screened and interviewed,” he said. “They get, designed for them, a wraparound support program that will take advantage of their skills and talents. They’ll be given any counselling and medical treatment they need, and that will happen [through] professionals in the city.”

As a transitional housing project, the ultimate goal of the Veterans’ Village is to help residents successfully reintegrate into society. “At the end of their rehabilitation, they will be ready to go back into society as useful members of the community, and we’ve got some companies that are now offering jobs for our graduates,” said Hutchings. 

Homes for Heroes, a Calgary-based organization, first launched in 2016 with a mission to solve the homelessness epidemic among Canadian veterans. According to the organization, tiny home villages in the United States have been able to reduce the number of homeless veterans by over 20,000 in the past 10 years. In Canada, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness is estimated at around 10,000. According to Hutchings, local estimates indicate there are approximately 42 homeless veterans in Kingston. 

Over the next 25 years, Kingston’s Veterans’ Village is expected to help an estimated 250 veterans experiencing homelessness, with the average stay expected to be one-and-a-half to two years. The village in Kingston will serve residents in an eastern Ontario catchment area that includes Smiths Falls, Merrickville, Brockville, Belleville, Cobourg, Port Hope, Peterborough, Prince Edward County, Perth, and Sharbot Lake. 

In terms of how the project was funded, the local Homes for Heroes Veterans’ Village received financial support from all three levels of government, including $2.0 million from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, as well as $1.5 million worth of land from the provincial government. As for the City of Kingston’s contribution, in May, City Council approved $70,000 in funding for the project through the municipal affordable housing capital budget. 

Hutchings commended City of Kingston staff for their assistance in getting the project off the ground, saying, “The City has made the building department and zoning and everything exceptionally easy and good for us to deal with.” 

In addition to public funding, Hutchings noted the project would not be possible without the support of private groups and other organizations. “We’ve got great support, in kind, from contractors and suppliers. The Brick is providing the furniture; Canarm [Lighting] is providing the electrical light fixtures; the steel stanchions for signposts are being done by Pure Ingenuity. I could go on and on… When you approach people and say, ‘This is for your town, this is to support homelessness,’ everybody gets it,” Hutchings said. 

Ride for Refuge event to support Homes for Heroes

One local organization that has supported the Homes for Heroes Veterans’ Village since the idea was first brought forward is the Kingston and Area Real Estate Association (KAREA), which has helped raise money and awareness for the project. For the third year in a row, KAREA will be organizing a Ride for Refuge event in Kingston in September, with all proceeds going to Homes for Heroes. 

“Our goal was initially to raise money for one of the tiny homes to be dedicated by KAREA, and we far surpassed that,” noted KAREA task force chair Gail Power. “We’ve just had excellent work from all the various offices, whether it’s Sutton Group, RE/MAX, eXp — all the different offices around town.” 

Power said the cause was an easy one for members to get behind: “It just makes sense. We are real estate people in a military town, and you just never think that military people would find themselves without the resources and help they need.” 

This year’s Ride for Refuge will take place on Saturday, Sep. 23, 2023, at the Collins Bay Legion 631, located at 4034 Bath Road. Participants of all ages and abilities are encouraged to register to take part. “It’s a family-friendly event with cycling or walking. You can participate for 2.5 kilometres, up to a 20-kilometre bike ride,” Power noted. Those interested in signing up for the event can do so on the Ride for Refuge website. Participants who raise a minimum of $150 will receive a free Ride for Refuge T-shirt. 

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