Getting the keys to a new apartment is literally like getting a new lease on life for Veterans moving into “Veterans’ House” in Ottawa.
“It’s rewarding when you see the smiles,” says Joel VanSnick, District G Commander, and an integral part of the Legion’s support efforts. The Legion’s Ontario Command took an active role in locating homeless Veterans to move into the new home. “One person was living out of a car, and is 72,” says VanSnick.
“I’m over the moon!” says Dave Gordon, Ontario Command’s Provincial Homeless Veterans Program Chairman. An emotional Gordon describes how it feels to see this project coming to fruition. “One homeless Veteran is one too many, and one less on the street gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling.”
Veterans’ House is specifically designed for Veterans in the Ottawa region. It is in Rockcliffe Park at the former site of the CFB Rockcliffe Air Base, in the Andy Carswell Building - named for the former Canadian Air Force pilot. The new residence has forty apartments including nine accessible rooms.
The building opened its doors in early February to its first excited residents. “It’s a huge step going from a car or the street to their own place,” says VanSnick. The rent will be aligned with income.
Six years in the making, Veterans’ House is a project of the Multifaith Housing Initiative, an Ottawa-based charity that plans to build similar facilities in other cities across the country. The Legion’s Ontario Command provided a total of $200,000 for the Ottawa project with half of that funding designated for peer support initiatives. Legion Branches in Ontario and other organizations across the province provided additional individual donations.
Volunteers at the Legion’s Ontario Command office in Aurora, recently helped load a truck with forty “apartment kits” filled with essentials like pots and pans, dishes, and bedding. The items were delivered to Ottawa, and the Command’s support also includes forty mattresses and a large television for the building’s common room.
Peer support projects will remain a fundamental part of the Legion’s assistance.
“A Legion committee will be formed to help residents with any needs,” says Gordon. During regular business hours, peer support staff will be in the building to help residents navigate their new lives – whether it be directing them to the nearest grocery store, teaching them to cook, or helping them find an accredited mental or physical health program. They will get help filling out benefit application forms for assistance from Veterans Affairs Canada, and job recruiters will share employment opportunities.
The aim is to fill Veterans’ House and provide living space to forty Veterans in need by the end of March 2021. Soon, a unique donated aircraft element will also become part of the building, adding even more warmth to this special new home.
Read more about the Legion’s efforts to combat homelessness.