Tiny home village for veterans pitched for north Edmonton neighbourhood

A village of tiny homes may house 20 of Edmonton’s homeless veterans in a north-end neighbourhood if city council likes the proposal pitched by Calgary-based non-profit. 

Homes for Heroes says village in Evansdale would accommodate 20 homeless veterans

A rendering of the envisioned tiny home village in Evansdale. (Homes for Heroes)

A village of tiny homes may house 20 of Edmonton's homeless veterans in a north-end neighbourhood if city council likes a proposal pitched by a Calgary-based non-profit. 

Homes for Heroes proposes to build the village, with structures measuring 300 square feet, on a one-acre plot of land in Evansdale, just south of 153rd Avenue and north of 94th Street. 

David Howard, president and co-founder of H4H, said they've designed the project to give veterans a home for about two years with access to programming to help deal with PTSD.

"I believe that we can end this issue in an eight to ten year time period," Howard said in an interview Friday. "This is solvable."

Howard said there are close to 200 homeless veterans in the Edmonton area. 

His organization has consulted more than 100 homeless veterans, done research, consulted social service agencies and worked with Veterans Affairs Canada to come up with a holistic program for the vets to help them transition into their own homes.

Why tiny homes?

Howard said some people coming off the streets and placed in larger apartments tend to hoard to fill up the space. 

"What comes with that? Shame," he said. "You get the shame, then they're shutting themselves off from society.  When they do that when that guilt comes in, that can lead to drugs and alcohol."

The tiny homes have a full set up just as a larger home — kitchen, bedroom, living area — but in a one-level compact form.

"This is what our veterans have said is that they want: a community of peers working together." 

The village includes a resource centre with an on-site counsellor's office staffed Monday to Friday and an outdoor amenity area. 
The tiny home village would be built on one acre of city land in Evansdale and include a common resource centre and outdoor amenity area. (Homes for Heroes)

Coun. Jon Dziadyk, city councillor for Ward 3, said it's a unique plan for Edmonton. 

"It pushes the boundaries of different housing forms that we can have," Dziadyk said in a video interview Friday. 

"It serves our veteran community because it's specifically for homeless veterans and it's a shame that we do have homeless veterans to begin with." 

City planners support the idea: the report detailing the plan will head to a public hearing June 9, where residents can give their feedback. 

It would require council's approval so the city can rezone the land from the current agriculture use to a development use. 

Homes for Heroes has had feedback during drop-in meetings and from written submissions. 

Some residents expressed concern that mature trees would be chopped down, so H4H said it reduced the number of units from the original 27 to retain the majority of trees onsite. 

Others wondered whether the Griesbach area would be a more appropriate location — with former military housing already a theme of that neighbourhood — but H4H said Canada Lands told them there's no available land in Griesbach. 

A city-led engagement gathered other comments, including concerns that property values in the area would go down and that homelessness in the north end is already an issue. 

Many support the project, citing proximity to services, transit, amenities and a strong connection between the north side and the veteran community. 
The proposed tiny homes would be equipped with the same as a regular home or apartment with bedroom, kitchen and living area. (Homes for Heroes)

Dziadyk said he also believes the proximity to the Canadian Forces Base Edmonton just north of the site, makes it a suitable location for the veterans. 

"Likely they served at the base in north Edmonton, and it's likely they have some familiarity with the area, being in north Edmonton is probably appropriate."

There's also a Veteran Services office nearby on 97th Street, Dziadyk noted. 

He said he'll take concerns from residents seriously before voting in favour of the proposal after the public hearing. 

True passion

The $4-million project, which includes preparing the land and building the homes, relies almost solely on corporate and individual support, Howard said.

"The Edmonton community has been absolutely incredible," Howard said. "Edmonton has a true passion for those that served and those that continue to serve." 

He said H4H established a tiny home village in Calgary last November, funded 90 per cent through private sponsors. 

Despite some opposition, Howard is optimistic the project in Edmonton will get support from council and the majority of residents. 

"You have somebody that stood on guard for Canada, I think you should be thrilled that they're going to stand on guard for the community."