The Cockrell House at 2303 Sooke Rd. is a place where veterans facing homelessness can get some stability. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)

Colwood house helps homeless veterans get back on their feet

Cockrell House has helped more than 100 people since it was established in 2009

A large wooden house on Sooke Road presents itself with a tidy lawn and a Canadian flag. While the outside looks picturesque, it’s the opportunity inside that changes lives.

Cockrell House sits at 2303 Sooke Rd., and for more than 10 years has acted as a home for under-housed and homeless veterans.

Over the past decade more than 100 people have moved through the house before getting back on their feet.

When the project started, said Cockrell House Chairman Angus Stanfield, the topic of homeless veterans was never spoken of.

READ MORE: Remembrance Day Features from Black Press

“I was back east for a veterans’ meeting and someone asked ‘what are we doing for homeless veterans?’” Stanfield recalled.

“Everybody stopped and thought… we had never thought about it before, we weren’t doing anything.”

So, Stanfield and two other advocates sought assistance from a local developers, starting with a two-bedroom unit and expanding to include the nine units at Cockrell House property, as well as two off-site units.

“Once we started, we realized this is a bigger problem than anyone thinks,” Stanfield said. He added that at the time a member of the House of Commons stood up and said there were about 15 homeless veterans in the country. “We’d only just started and already identified 32 on Southern Vancouver Island.”

The problem in trying to identify the homeless veteran population is that veterans don’t typically stay in homeless shelters, where counts are done.

“It’s probably their military training on survival, but you’re more likely to not find them in an urban setting at all,” Standfiled said, saying many live in the bush, in their cars or on friends’ couches.

“Somebody that’s worn a uniform is slightly different than other people.”

ALSO READ: Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps receives first poppy, launching the 2019 Poppy Campaign

Stanfield estimates that as much as 10 per cent of Canada’s homeless population has served in the Canadian Armed Forces.

After establishing Cockrell House it didn’t take long for word to spread – Stanfield and staff stopped in at local Legions and asked staff to keep an eye out for veterans coming in asking for bus passes or food stamps, and to let them know about Cockrell House.

When someone moves into the house, the Esquimalt Lion’s Club provides them with a new mattress and donations from the Legion provide furniture, pots and pans, towels and everything else someone could need.

They can then take all of this with them when they move out. Residents also receive a monthly bus pass and a $100 food voucher, as well as bi-monthly visits from nurses at Verity Home Care. Veterans are also connected with an agent at Veteran’s Affairs, as well as any other counselling or healthcare needs which are required.

There is not a strict time limit to their stay, and they are not required to pay any rent whatsoever.

ALSO READ: Digital poppies set to launch as part of Remembrance Day campaign

This doesn’t last long, Stanfield said.

Most of the time when people start to become more stabilized they volunteer to make a small monthly contribution to help offset the $10,000 per-month bill which Cockrell House costs.

“It really works, because they feel like they’re paying for something and also that they’re giving back,” Stanfield said.

The house receives no government funding, and is able to pay its dues from Legion donations and smaller private donations.

Ex-military members like rules and authority so a live-in manager, a veteran sergeant, helps keep things in order. The rules are present but simple: no indoor smoking, no overnight guests and no parties.

The house can comfortably hold eight people, though in a tight situation in can hold up to 10. The house is split into one, two and three-bedroom units with shared common space. In the rare occurrence that the veteran is a woman (in 10 years there have only been seven) she gets the single-occupancy unit.

While some might think living in close quarters could be bothersome, tenants have found companionship with other veterans, and even taken each other under their wings.

“It’s veterans helping veterans,” Stanfield said. “They miss being part of the family that they were in the military.”

For more information, visit legionbcyukon.com/legion-foundation/cockrell-house.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The Cockrell House at 2303 Sooke Rd. is a place where veterans facing homelessness can get some stability. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)

Just Posted

Police incident in Mount Douglas Park leads to road closure

Officers turning cars away, letting hikers go up trails

PHOTOS: Women’s March through downtown Victoria draws crowds of activists, allies

Attendees of all ages carried instruments, posters with empowering messages

Victoria resident lives well despite dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

‘Like an ATM’: World’s first biometric opioid-dispensing machine launches in B.C.

First-of-its-kind dispensing machine unveiled in the Downtown Eastside with hopes of curbing overdose deaths

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

BC Green Party leader visits northern B.C. pipeline protest site

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Ice chunk from truck crushes vehicle windshield on Vancouver Island

None injured, but Nanaimo RCMP say there can be fines for accumulations of ice and snow

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Most Read