A property in Transcona is being eyed to create a village of tiny homes for unsheltered veterans.
The Homes for Heroes Foundation wants to buy two acres of city land just north of Transcona Boulevard and west of the Transcona Library, where it hopes to build 20 tiny homes and a resource centre. That site would offer short-term housing and on-site counselling, with the ultimate goal of helping its residents secure stable jobs and permanent homes.
"We actually have the ability to end the issue of veteran homelessness in the City of Winnipeg," said David Howard, the foundation’s chief executive officer.
Howard said such villages are either under construction, or have already proven successful, in many other Canadian cities.
"There are more than 200 veterans living on the streets of Winnipeg. These are those that stood up and stood on guard for our country," he said.
The program aims to provide individual supports to veterans to help them readjust to civilian life, which can include everything from financial advice to mental health counselling to addictions treatment. The group’s website notes it can take several months or years before an individual veteran is ready to leave the village.
Howard said he’s spent years attempting to secure a site to add the supportive housing project in Winnipeg. On Wednesday, Howard told the property and development committee that it took multiple attempts to secure meetings with Mayor Brian Bowman and other council members, including one trip to Winnipeg that he made just to speak with the mayor at a public event.
"I have been working to try to get land in Winnipeg for the last three years. We seem to get blocked at every corner," he said.
In an email, a spokesperson for the mayor said his office is aware of two emails from the foundation, which were quickly handled.
"Both emails were promptly forwarded to the public service for outreach and response," wrote Jeremy Davis.
As the city attempts to ban homeless camps from being set up under bridges and seeks ways to prevent vulnerable people from sleeping in bus shelters, Coun. Kevin Klein said there’s a clear, immediate need for the project.
"This really comes at an opportune time, given that we have to address where (vulnerable people can) go and this certainly will help… 200 of our homeless people. This should have been done three years ago," said Klein.
Howard said his organization would buy the land for market value and has secured $4 million to build the tiny home village. Once the land is purchased, he said construction could be completed within 18 months.
During Wednesday’s property and development meeting, city staff warned that there is one potential conflict with previous plans for the site, which is part of a large property at 1500 Plessis Rd. Officials said part of the land may be needed for the future East of the Red Recreation Plex, for which plans have not yet been completed.
The committee ordered a report on declaring the land surplus to free it up for the potential sale.
But Coun. Cindy Gilroy told her colleagues she does not support sacrificing recreation space.
Gilroy suggested the tiny home proposal itself could offer a model for additional housing projects in the city.
"This could be actually something that could work for a lot of different groups… in our homeless population right now," she said.
Any land sale would require full council approval.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.