Ottawa

Feds announce funding for unique veterans' home in Ottawa

The federal government is paying more than half the cost of Canada's first home designed specifically for homeless veterans Tuesday, a month before construction is scheduled to start.

Building at former base designed specifically for military veterans struggling with homelessness

About 14 months of construction is set to begin in August on Veterans' House, a home specifically designed to meet the needs of military veterans. (CSV Architects)

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  • The federal government announced Tuesday it will provide $6.5 million in funding.

The federal government is paying more than half the cost of Canada's first home designed specifically for homeless veterans Tuesday, a month before construction is scheduled to start.

The Multifaith Housing Initiative is starting construction in August to build the 40-unit home for military veterans struggling with homelessness at the former Canadian Forces Base Rockcliffe, east of downtown Ottawa. 

"This building has been very specifically designed for the needs of [veterans] … the first of its kind in Canada," said Suzanne Le, the charity's executive director.

"The issue goes way beyond Ottawa … We want to see houses [like this] go up across the country."

Suzanne Le is the executive director at the Multifaith Housing Initiative, which is applying to build supportive housing exclusively for military veterans on the former Canadian Forces Base Rockcliffe. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

There are similar projects across Canada, including transitional housing for veterans in Edmonton and a repurposed home for veterans in Calgary, but Le said this is the first purpose-built, permanent home for veterans.

Calming, shared spaces

The building is designed with a strong focus on communal areas, as well as calm outdoor spaces to help deal with mental health issues such as night terrors, Le said.  

Some of the suggestions brought up during a lengthy planning process involving partner organizations and experts included a fitness room, a meditative garden and a dog yard for those with service dogs.

They will all be included in the new home.

The outdoor barbecue area will provide a communal area for veterans to spend time with each other and their pets. (CSV Architects )
The fitness room replaced a suggested computer room after long discussions around how to meet the needs of veterans. (CSV Architects )

Veterans will be able to move in around October 2020, roughly 14 months after construction begins, and they will be able to stay as long as they want, Le said.

The charity will work with the Royal Canadian Legion and Veterans Affairs Canada to identify future residents.

The home will also offer mental health and addictions support.

"We are recognizing that as a population [they] kind of have a very strong unit mentality," Le said. "We've kind of brought it back to that."

Hundreds of homeless vets

Soldiers Helping Soldiers, an Ottawa-based organization serving military members, said it encountered over 375 veterans staying in shelters over the last three years, Le said, adding that it's a country-wide issue. 

"The research indicates that it has a lot to do with the transition," Le said. "They have issues transitioning from a military culture and lifestyle to a civilian culture and lifestyle."

Soldiers Helping Soldiers is planning to offer peer mentoring support to veterans at the unit. 

Veterans' House will have 40 units for veterans struggling with homelessness in the Ottawa area. (CSV Architects)

Instead of a monument or plaque, the project was chosen to commemorate the military history of the Rockcliffe airbase by providing a safe and affordable space for veterans who are struggling with mental health, addiction issues and homelessness, Le said.

"[It] becomes a living commemoration of that military history, continuing to serve veterans in need," she said. 

"We've been working on this project for five years so it's taken us a long time to get to this point … I'm really proud.

A rendering of the outside of the veteran's home to be built on the former Canadian Forces Base Rockcliffe, east of Ottawa's downtown. (CSV Architects)

With the federal government's support, the charity is hoping the project will inspire other cities to build their own veteran-specific homes to deal with the Canada-wide problem.

Veterans Affairs Canada is providing $6.5 million to Veterans' House.

The project is expected to cost $11.5 million, with half the remaining $5 million already raised. Another $2,5 million is still to come.

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