Best of 2017

Best of 2017 #24 Former CFB Rockcliffe Airbase set to house Ottawa’s homeless veterans

The Multifaith Housing Initiative (MHI), a federally incorporated charity providing housing to those that need it most, is currently laying the groundwork for its latest project: a one-of-a-kind housing facility for Ottawa’s homeless veterans.

To be built on the former CFB Rockcliffe Airbase Lands, the Veterans House will consist of 40 self-contained bachelor apartments.

But to build this dream, the MHI needs to first raise $8 million.

To raise these funds, amongst other fundraising events, the MHI hosted a fundraising concert on Sunday, April 30 in the Ottawa-area. The Capital Celtic Concert, by the RCMP Pipes, Drums, and Dancers of the National Capital Region, promised to be an afternoon filled with music and dance.

Partial proceeds went towards the Veterans House.

The Veterans House is specifically designed to house homeless and at-risk homeless veterans and would help them gain stable housing, recover from mental health ailments and addictions.

MHI Executive Director Suzanne Le first learned of the condition of homeless veterans at an event by Ottawa’s then-Deputy Mayor, Steve Desroches, in 2013. As fate would have it, not long after that, she attended another event sponsored by Canada Lands Corporation (CLC) to discuss a commemoration piece to recognize the former CFB Rockcliffe Airbase Lands. Instead of the typical statue or street naming, Le had something more significant in mind.

“I pitched him [head of CLC] the idea that instead of having a statue or naming a building, actually having a building on the former base that would commemorate the military history of the base by serving those military members in need now,” said Le.

The idea took root and developed from there.

Originally, the facility was to incorporate 16 units; but after researching the growing need and rise of homeless veterans in the nation’s capital, the number of units needed number bumped up to 40.

MHI has been working alongside organizations like Soldiers Helping Soldiers and Canadian Forces Morale and Wellness to develop a facility to address all of the needs of homeless veterans including a mental health care plan.

From her research, Le has learned that a community-centric approach to the Veterans House would be most suitable for veterans.

“What I learned was that military personnel have a very unit-oriented mentality. They fight in units, they work in units, they really look out for those in their unit. Some of the successes with housing homeless veterans in Toronto is when they were housed together. They seem to recover a lot better,” noted Le.

The Veterans House, therefore, will also include communal spaces.

From working on this project, Le has realized that many Canadians do not realize that there is such a large homeless veteran population in the country.

“It is kind of shocking, but there is, what I would refer to, as a social contract between Canadians and veterans and the military community. We have a social contract to take care of them. These men and women are going out and putting their lives on the line, and they’re getting themselves injured protecting our freedmen and protecting Canadian ideals around the world. They’re risking their life. And they come back here, and we’re not taking care of them,” stated Le.

Construction is expected to begin on the Veterans House project by spring 2018 latest.

To donate to the project click here.

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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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