A flagship community of tiny homes is set to make a huge difference in the lives of homeless veterans and the father of a fallen soldier is glad to have a role in the project.
The Homes for Heroes Veterans Village in Calgary’s southeast neighbourhood of Forest Lawn will welcome its first 15 tenants in October, signifying the first community of its kind in Canada. To keep their memories alive, each home is being dedicated to one of Calgary’s fallen soldiers.
When Murray Marshall heard one of the homes would be named after his son, Steven, the career-carpenter immediately requested he assist in the construction of the village.
“We’ve never been where these kids go and where they perish. They went there for us and it’s great to keep their memory alive through the houses,” said Marshall.
Marshall lost his twenty-four-year-old son when he was killed by a landmine during a deployment in Afghanistan in 2009. Marshall said veterans have a special connection with the fallen because they understand what deployment is like. He’s proud one of the homes will be named the Steven Marshall House and hopes it will bring people the kind of joy that his son brought others.
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“We can’t change what happened but if someone drives by these houses, Steven’s friends or kids he went to school with or teachers, they’ll think of him and smile. They’ll think about Steve and there won’t be tears; it will bring a smile to their face,” said Marshall.
He’s been assisting with the construction of the homes on a two-week contract with ATCO, the company that funded the $70,000 homes by giving a $1.5 million in-kind gift .
“There’s nothing I won’t do. I told them I would push I broom if I needed to but I’m a carpenter by trade,” said Marshall. “When these are dedicated, I’m sure the other families will be just as blown away. It’s impressive . . . Calgary is the place where things get done for our military and veterans.”
David Howard, president of Homes for Heroes, said veterans’ homelessness is a “national crisis;” there are about 3,500 homeless veterans nationwide and 180 in Calgary.
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Howard said his team is proud of the almost-completed project but added it’s just one of a handful of dedicated veteran communities they have planned, with the next being constructed in Edmonton and others in Ontario.
“One village isn’t going to do it in Calgary. We need to have at least two and if we can get that, we think we can end the problem (here) within eight to 10 years,” he said.
The veterans advocate said building these communities is the least they can do to help those who sacrificed so much for Canada.
“We live in an incredible country and there are men and women who put their life on the line to keep it that way. As Canadians we owe them gratitude, appreciation and our thanks for everything they have done,” said Howard.
Currently, the final touches are being completed on the collection of tiny homes.
The 15 fully-furnished units total no more than 300 square feet each and are complete with a full bathroom, kitchen and queen-sized bed that folds into a couch.
They will be centred around the heart of a campus, which will include a resource centre, laundry facilities, a councillor’s office, common space, deck and communal kitchen for social gatherings.
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With help from the Mustard Seed (Homes for Heroes’ partner), residents have been chosen to move in on Oct. 1. Howard estimates the average length of stay will be two years, but will likely vary.
He said the tiny homes concept was chosen to help build a community environment for the military heroes, much like barracks, to help them heal and reintegrate into society.
This set-up, unlike that of a subsidized apartment for example, will help those who are coping with feelings of loneliness or struggling with PTSD.
“It’s very easy to close the door and shut yourself off from everybody. But with this community, that’s all facing inward, you have your privacy but your neighbours are also looking out for you. So, there is that team approach,” said Howard.
“Without that sense of community, you lose that sense of belonging to something and that’s what our veterans need.”
Each home will be named in honour of a Canadian military hero and Howard hopes the space can serve as an educational environment for the greater Calgary community.
“There’s no excuse for those who stood on guard for our country to not have access to housing and social services,” he said.
“I think the importance is to make sure that our veterans understand that as Canadians we appreciate the sacrifice they made for us.”
— With files from Stephanie Babych and Darren Makowichuk.
This content was originally published here.