‘Real heroes’ will soon find a home in Kingston

A mock-up of a soon-to-be displayed billboard at the site of the Veteran’s village. Photo-capture by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Rows of beautiful limestone-faced homes with copper roofing will soon be popping up along King Street, and every home in the neighbourhood will house a hero.

“Let’s talk about the word ‘heroes,’ shall we? If you score the winning goal in the Stanley Cup game, you are not a hero. These people are the real heroes,” said John Armitage of veterans, when asked why he offered his support to the project. 

The President of Llynlea Fine Homes, Armitage was the first donor to the Homes For Heroes Foundation (H4HF) Kingston Veterans’ Village. H4HF unveiled its design plan at The Cataraqui Golf and Country Club on Thursday, Sep. 15, 2022, during a special reception for Kingston donors and volunteers. 

The exterior of one of the specially designed Kingston limestone-look homes. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

“I committed on the spot [when asked],” said Armitage, noting that he had three main reasons for funding the first home to be constructed. “One, it gave me the opportunity to honour my father’s service. He was part of the army that liberated Holland, and they fought in the Scheldt Estuary… some of the fiercest fighting of the war. I’m lucky he came back.”

“Secondly…our veterans are disproportionately represented among the homeless. It just bothered me that we celebrate these young people, sending them off to war… And then they come back broken, and we ignore them,” Armitage lamented.

“Homeless veterans really don’t want to be homeless… They’ve got problems and they’re not getting adequately treated. [Which] led to my third reason… a hand up, not a handout. [Veterans in the H4HF initiative] commit to a treatment program, which is individualized. They commit to graduate… at no cost to the taxpayer. This is not a taxpayer-subsidized program.”

Interior view of a Tiny Home. Submitted image.

Multiple speakers at the event pointed out that H4HF is saving the public about $80,000 per homeless veteran each year. “From ambulance fees, emergency services, police, food banks, and everything that can be done… [it] costs that much in a year,” explained Mark Hutchings, Chair of the Kingston Veterans Village projects. “So the city said, ‘Wow, you’re gonna take 20 [people] off the streets? We’re in! What can we do to help?’ And they have been exceptionally helpful.” 

The program aims to house veterans in tiny homes, clustered around a central resource centre. Counselling staff at the centre will design and implement individualized programs for each resident, providing the health resources, financial services, and training they will need for well-being and independence in the long term.

Hutchings stated proudly that the site of the village, adjacent to Providence Care Hospital, on land donated by the province of Ontario, is perfect. “It’s located right next to a bus stop. For people to come downtown by bus takes eight minutes. It’s got Lake Ontario Park right next door, so they’ve got miles of hiking trails and beautiful mature trees. And the architects have specifically been tasked… to make it to integrate it with the architectural flavour of Kingston. So, what appears to be limestone front and copper roofs will fit perfectly into the Kingston architectural ethos.”

Hutchings thanked all the assembled volunteers and donors, and introduced H4HF President David Howard, who had flown in from Calgary to attend the unveiling.

Howard expressed his great admiration for the team of volunteers making the project happen in the Limestone City. “We have an incredible group that is dedicated and solid… So many groups of supporters have stepped forward to help those that have served. Kingston has an incredibly rich military history, but also a history of supporting those that have stood on guard for our country… It’s humbling to be here, quite frankly, to work with a group like the City of Kingston,“ he stated.

“The goal here for us is to end the issue of veteran homelessness,” said Howard, noting that his own grandfather was a veteran who suffered terribly from PTSD. “And we’re doing that by building tiny home villages with wraparound social support services. We have veterans in the program already out west who have transitioned successfully from the program. There is proof that this works.”

The Canadian Corps of Commissionaires will be helping the participants when they complete the program. Chair of Kingston Region Division, Col. Richard Dixon (Ret’d) explained, “We’re committed to doing what works best to help, and where we can do the most for heroes to be successful, especially here in Kingston… We’ve made several donations to Homes for Heroes, and we would like to be involved more than just as a sponsor. We believe that there’s an opportunity to bring the services the Commissionaires provide during the construction phase, with security. For the veterans who end up living at Homes for Heroes, we would very much like to be able to provide them opportunities for employment.”

The Kingston Veterans’ Village is hoped to be the first of many such communities to be built in eastern Canada by H4HF. To find out more or to make a donation, visit homesforheroesfoundation.ca.

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