By Andrea Arnold
The Honour House Society has been providing free accommodation to all members of the Canadian Armed Forces, Veterans, Emergency Services Personnel and their families during medical care or treatment in the Vancouver area since September 2011.

“We view all visitors as family,” said society president and Honorary Colonel Al De Genova. “We provide a home away from home.”

The house, located in New Westminster is a heritage house that has been renovated to include 11 private rooms, each with their own ensuite. The kitchen, living room, media room, sunrooms and other common spaces, along with the bedroom spaces are fully modernised and wheelchair accessible.

The operating costs for the house are covered exclusively by donations and fundraising, with no government funding. The immediate needs of guests to the home are met by one full-time staff member and one part-time staffer. They are supported by the board of directors and the team of volunteers that work hard to keep the house operational. Many of the volunteers have served themselves.

“It is because of the volunteers and donations that we are able to keep our annual operating costs to $190,000,” said De Genova.

One example of ongoing donations that De Genova mentioned is that every paramedic in the province donates five dollars off their paycheck every three months.

On October 5th, 2019, the society started working on a second location to serve those who serve. Honour Ranch is located 10km south of Ashcroft BC, west of Kamloops. The ranch is built overlooking the South Thompson River.

“We have 120 acres,” said De Genova. “There are 10 log cottages and a main lodge, and we are ready to build 10 more cottages.”

Guests are invited to stay at the ranch as long as they need. While they are there they have access to cutting edge strategies in the treatment of operational stress injuries including anxiety, depression, and PTSD. The Honour House website explains that the goal of the ranch is to empower the guests so they are better equipped to navigate the often debilitating emotional and physical stresses of selfless commitment to service.

The work done through the Honour House programs has saved lives, and De Genova is certain they will save hundreds more in the coming years. Although having to adapt to COVID regulations and protocols slowed down the construction on the ranch, crews adapted as needed and construction continued.
Guests to the Ranch will have access to a diverse range of supportive programming including equine therapy, music, meditative practices and movements.

Both Honour House and Honour Ranch have a requirement of organizations that present workshops or retreats for their guests as well as providing a place for them to stay. These programs work on mental health as well as physical aspects. The organizations must be able to provide a support network of professional practitioners for participants to turn to when they return home.

The Tour of Honour was launched on April 3rd. The three month project will have representatives from the Honour House travel from one end of the province to the other and back again spreading awareness and raising funds.

Included in the tour is a Humvee that was donated by the Surrey RCMP that will be raffled off at the conclusion of the tour. Throughout the trip, tickets will be available for $20.

The Honour House website says that the tour is a grassroots effort to bring attention to the illnesses and injuries that face those who put on a uniform and keep us all safe from harm, each and every day. Funds raised during the tour will be used to support our charities’ two locations, Honour House and Honour Ranch.

The Tour will be stopping at the McBride District Volunteer Fire Department Hall at 12:00 pm on Sunday May 28th, and then at the Valemount Legion at 5:00pm. They are inviting all members of the communities to join them at these events.