Tiny homes are making a big difference for Canadian military veterans living on the streets, says an Edmonton case manager for the Homes for Heroes Foundation.
“Every day I come into work knowing we’re helping veterans who want the help,” Michael Schneider says. “There’s honour in that.”
Homes for Heroes launched its first Veterans Village in Calgary in 2019 and opened another in north Edmonton in 2021.
The not-for-profit foundation plans to open a similar village in Kingston, Ont., in a few months, and one in Winnipeg next summer. The interior of the one of the tiny homes in the ATCO Veterans Village run by the Homes for Heroes Foundation. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)
“We have 20 tiny homes, approximately 300 square feet,” Schneider says of the Edmonton village, at 93rd Street and 152A Ave.
Each unit has a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living area.
The village also has a resources centre for community gatherings. It’s also a place to connect with Veterans Affairs, mental health services and other health-care professionals.
“The goal is to give that soft landing and give them a safe, secure, healing environment so they can carry on with their civilian life,” says Schneider.
WATCH | Take a tour of tiny homes in the Veterans Village in Edmonton
These tiny-home villages for veterans are expanding across Canada
The $4-million Edmonton project — officially the Atco Veterans Village — opened two years ago with funding from the province, city and private and corporate donors.
To date more than 20 residents have graduated through its programs, finding permanent housing and jobs. Others have opted to return to school.
“When we have a resident that succeeds, that’s a victory,” says Schneider, who served with the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, for more than 20 years.
The father of six says it’s a good feeling to be part of the team helping fellow vets.
“It’s almost like being back in the military, except you have nobody yelling at you every day.”
Picnic tables, a village garden and landscape on the grounds of the veteran village in Edmonton. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)
Part of the success of the transitional housing model comes down to the physical configuration of the villages, says Homes for Heroes founder David Howard, of Calgary.
The inward-looking barrack-style communities give residents that feeling that someone has their six — their back — just like when they were in the military.
Howard also says the size of the units really matters.
“Seven hundred or 800 square feet can be overwhelming for someone with zero possessions so they begin to hoard,” says Howard.
“The smaller space is a little easier for them to control.”
A feel from above of the layout of the veteran village in Edmonton with the Homes for Heroes Foundation. (Rick Bremness/CBC)
Howard said he watched his grandfather struggle with PTSD after serving in the Second World War.
“What I saw was a broken man and he needed help and he wasn’t accessing those supports.”
Howard believes the public can play a role in what he calls “this vital work” through their donations and moral support for fellow Canadians who are having a difficult time transitioning back to civilian life after serving their country.
As for future expansion he says there’s a need in B.C., Quebec and the Maritimes, he says.
“There’s an estimated 10,000 plus veterans that are unhoused and need our help.”