Task force members, from left: Kay Langmuir and Gail Power, Sutton Group Masters Realty; Stacey MacDonald, Royal LePage ProAlliance; and Kendra Hodgson, eXp Realty. Missing from the photo is Jackie Blakney, Re/Max Finest Realty.
Task force members, from left: Kay Langmuir and Gail Power, Sutton Group Masters Realty; Stacey MacDonald, Royal LePage ProAlliance; and Kendra Hodgson, eXp Realty. Missing from the photo is Jackie Blakney, Re/Max Finest Realty.

The Kingston and Area Real Estate Association (KAREA) recently launched the Kingston Homes for Heroes – Veterans’ Village Sign Rider Program. It’s to raise awareness and funds to construct a village of tiny homes in Kingston, Ont. to help homeless veterans get back on their feet.

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The mission of the Homes for Heroes Foundation’s (H4HF) is to provide a comprehensive solution to homelessness among veterans by providing a full-service program to deliver resources, training and counselling to help veterans live independently in the long term.

“Our goal is to create awareness of the Kingston Homes for Heroes’ Village, its goal of assisting homeless veterans by giving them a hand up, not a handout,” says Realtor Gail Power of Sutton Group Masters.

The Kingston village will be the third of its kind in Canada (the others are in Calgary and Edmonton), says Mark Hutchings, chair of the Kingston H4HF Veterans’ Village project.

H4HF was co-founded by David Howard and Murray McCann. Howard’s grandfather, a navy vet, suffered from PTSD and poverty.  Howard was also involved in starting the Veterans Association Food Bank and McCann helped instigate the Field of Crosses Commemorative Project, both in Calgary.

An estimated 5,000 veterans are living on the streets in Canada.

“Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to experience homelessness and female veterans are twice as likely as their male counterparts to be homeless,” according to H4HF. “Our housing and transition solutions were developed by veterans for veterans.”

The Kingston Village will consist of 20 tiny homes in a park-like atmosphere near the Providence Care Hospital. Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2023 and organizers hope to welcome its first cohort before that year’s end.

KAREA’s first goal is to raise $125,000. “Hopefully we will hit the goal quickly, then we will raise the goal,” says Stacey MacDonald, 2022’s president elect for the 638-member association and a commercial broker with Royal LePage ProAlliance Realty.

Kingston is home to a military base and shelter-related charities are always important to real estate professionals, so MacDonald says it was a “no-brainer” to get involved.

Power first brought the village to KAREA’s attention in November 2021. MacDonald says the Board of Directors was highly interested and when a task force was formed, she jumped at the chance to be its chair.

The first meeting of the task force was at the end of November and members generated ideas from online auctions to community events, to a sign rider program developed by Power and her husband, broker Ryan Power. The rider program was selected because it was thought to be the easiest way to increase awareness and raise funds.

“In this program, Realtors who make a financial commitment to the village have the privilege of hanging an ‘I proudly support the Homes for Heroes Foundation’ banner from all of their real estate signage,” Power says.’

The goal is to have the sign rider appear on all listings in the Kingston area.
The goal is to have the sign rider appear on all listings in the Kingston area.

Everybody stops to look at a real estate sign, even if they’re not looking for a home, so the banners will get a lot of exposure, MacDonald says.

Agents who participate will be supported with information, social media, a standard image and verbiage to provide a clear message across all platforms, she says.

MacDonald hopes to get her commercial real estate counterparts involved too – they have larger signs, most on main routes with high visibility.

“We hope at least 25 per cent of the membership participates,” says MacDonald, whose father and grandfather were both in the military.

Realtor Jackie Blakney of Re/Max Finest Realty, who has strong family military connections, and her small team are aiming to personally raise $100,000 to build one unit of housing.

It all started with Power, who says, “I was watching our local news and saw a story on the veterans’ village and was so touched to learn that there are so many in our local community that have lost their way, people who have served in the military and for various reasons are now homeless.

“I wanted to get involved to try to make a difference. Helping people find homes is what I do so helping homeless veterans find assistance, especially housing, seems to work hand in hand. I want to give back to our military community and help those that need a hand up.”

In early 2021, Power contacted the Kingston Veterans’ Village Project. She says, “I explained that being a Realtor in a military city, it seemed like a natural fit to help support the Kingston village. I wasn’t sure where to begin but I knew that fundraising and promotion would be top priority.”

Power and her husband gathered a small group of Realtor friends to participate, then organized the Ride for Refuge, which raised over $36,000.

“This event was headed up my colleague Kay Langmuir (Sutton Group Masters Realty), Kathy Williams from Williams Auto Service and myself. We had huge support from the Kingston community.”

Power says the process has been smooth, beginning with a small group and then expanding to a dynamic team committed to the cause. Now the task begins to get the rest of the association as excited about and committed to the cause as they are.

The goal is to “have every real estate sign in Kingston and area display a banner and participate financially in supporting H4H,” Power says.

“It’s amazing how we can use our connections as Realtors to bring such abundant support to this worthy project simply by getting informed and involved.”

For more information visit the H4HF website.

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