British Columbia

Volunteer-built B.C. cabins safe haven for those with PTSD

Honour House Society — an organization involved in supporting military veterans and first responders suffering from PTSD — has broke ground on their first counselling cabin.

Construction has begun on Honour House Society's first PTSD support cabin

Honour House president Allan De Genova, first from the right in camouflage uniform, is surrounded by members of Prince George Fire and Rescue, British Columbia Ambulance Service, British Columbia Corrections and the Rocky Mountain Rangers army reserve unit. (CBC/Colin Slark)

Construction is underway in Prince George, B.C., where community members sympathetic to Canada's veteran military and first responders are building a safe haven for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Using local charitable donations of labour and materials, the Honour House Society is working with volunteers to build a two bedroom cabin, intended as a quiet place for those who need it.

"Men and women that need help ... After deployment, through a transition with post-traumatic stress ... This is why the ranch is going to play a key role," said Allan De Genova, president of the Honour House Society, which helps veterans and first responders.

The plan is to construct up to 10 of the cabins throughout B.C., then transport them to a ranch in the Kamloops area, where they will be used for Honour House's PTSD program.

Allan De Genova, president of the Honour House Society, stands in front of designs and diagrams for the Honour Ranch cabins, unveiled in Prince George, B.C., Friday. (CBC / Colin Slark)

Tim Armstrong, chief of New Westminster Fire and Rescue, has been with Honour House almost since its inception in 2011.

He said the idea of building the PTSD cabins arose over a year ago after the society realized it needed to create a safe retreat for first responders and military service people.

Armstrong said Honour House staff went to communities throughout B.C. and challenged people there to build the cabins. The hope is that, through the shared construction work, community members will connect with veterans and come to understand their sacrifice.

"We think that when a community takes on a project like this, everybody gets involved and everybody will benefit from it," said Armstrong. 

"The idea is to truck these [cabins] down at a specified date, and we'll create a village overnight."

'In perpetuity'

Once the Honour Ranch is completed, it will be used to offer clinical counselling services in a non-traditional setting, said De Genova.

He said Honour House has secured funding for the program through B.C. Housing and other parties, so those suffering from PTSD can rely on Honour House "in perpetuity."

"We have a home away from home that will be here," said De Genova. "Military and all first responders don't have to worry ... We'll always be here to look after our men and women that need that help. The ranch will carry on."

He said with the funding secured, the top priority is getting the cabins built.

Each cabin will be named after the community that built them. The first is to be called Prince George House. De Genova said volunteers in Vancouver, New Westminster, Richmond and Burnaby have expressed interest in building their own cabins.

With files from Colin Slark