Veterans make up approximately 4.4% of our homeless population, and yet only 1.7% of the Canadian population are veterans.
The overrepresentation of veterans in our homeless population is a tragic reality that requires innovative solutions to address.
While this week’s column isn’t dedicated to the goings on at City Hall, given that it is Veteran’s Week, it’s a topic that we should take the time to explore.
Locally, according to the Kelowna Gospel Mission, there are anywhere between four to 10 homeless veterans using the shelter each year. While nationally it is estimated there are anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 homeless veterans.
According to a 2019 study by the House of Commons, many of the causes for homelessness amongst veterans are the same as those for non-veterans, including poverty, lack of affordable housing, lack of stable employment, addictions and more. Homeless veterans have also noted a struggle with adapting to civilian life and its associated social isolation as a contributing factor in their homelessness.
While I was working for Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, we partnered with an organization that aims to address many of the root causes of homelessness for veterans, including those causes unique to veterans such as social isolation.
The Homes for Heroes Foundation builds “villages” for veterans, which consist of 15 to 25 individual tiny homes. These homes are less than 300-square-feet, but include all the features of a regular home. At the same time, the “village” incorporates a resource centre, counselling office, community garden and other amenities.
The homes are inward facing to each other and the green space, which facilitates interaction and community amongst the veterans.
Now the term “village” makes this seem like a much bigger space than it really is. The project that the ministry partnered with Homes for Heroes to build will be located on only an acre of land in Kingston and will be home to 25 individual tiny homes.
You can learn more about Homes for Heroes by visiting it website at homesforheroesfoundation.ca
While this is a very specific example of innovation, I believe there are broader lessons we can apply to solving complex issues we face here in Kelowna.
Our community and our country are filled with individuals, not-for-profits and other experts who the City of Kelowna can lean on for their knowledge and ideas. Whether it be addressing rising crime, the lack of affordability, keeping graduating students in our community, protection against flooding or others, we have local experts on these topics who can, and are willing to, help find solutions.
Striking community task forces, creating local expert panels, partnering with national and local organizations and more, are all ways we can look outside the box and try to address our most pressing issues.
Our residents want to make this the best community it can be and they’re more than happy to lend their time and resources to make a difference. We just need to ask.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.