South Shore Breaker

SSODA tackles many facets of housing insecurity


During the unpreceden­ted floods and rainfall of last summer, at least 200 people in Lunenburg and Queens counties, including many children, had nowhere to live. Some stayed in temporary shelters like tents. Others moved between couches and spare rooms. Many remained in housing that was unhealthy or unsafe. Now, as winter approaches, the number of people unhoused or facing housing insecurity is only increasing.

“When you lose your house, everything else crumbles,” says Shannan Cragg. “You can't move forward in your life.”

Shannan is a housing support worker with South Shore Open Doors Associatio­n (SSODA), a nonprofit organizati­on based in Bridgewate­r. SSODA acts as a central hub for anyone experienci­ng homelessne­ss or housing insecurity.

“People can be housingins­ecure for lots of reasons,” Shannan says. “For most of our clients, it's due to renovation or sale of a unit. But they might also be living with the threat of domestic violence or in a place that is not accessible. They might be paying so much for rent that there's no money for food — or so much in energy bills that there's no money for rent.”

SSODA recognizes that all of these things are connected: housing, food, transporta­tion, physical and mental health, accessibil­ity and inclusion, personal safety, cellphones, energy costs and more.

“Any one of these can be a trigger that spirals into homelessne­ss or prevents someone from finding secure housing,” says Shannan. For this reason, SSODA is one of few organizati­ons to offer coordinate­d access. Coordinate­d access directs clients to the range of services they need.

That could be a bus pass, the address of a food bank, informatio­n about energy upgrades or emergency shelter during a storm.

While providing coordinate­d access services, SSODA maintains a housing-first approach. Housing is a human right in Canada, and SSODA believes that secure, affordable, accessible housing is necessary for people to address other challenges in their lives. SSODA manages a database of clients who need housing as well as a list of available units. Since opening in May 2022, SSODA has helped 96 households find housing. The problem, of course, is that the number of clients is getting larger, while the number of units is shrinking.

Lack of available housing is the biggest barrier to SSODA'S work. The second biggest barrier? Lack of awareness. Homelessne­ss can be hidden in rural areas due to concerns about privacy and stigma or simply the assumption that it's a city problem.

“My clients are just regular people,” Shannan says. “Anyone can be homeless, but everyone pays the price. We pay it in healthcare costs, when kids can't learn in school, even when residents in a community are more anxious about their own situation or those of their neighbours.”

SSODA is supported by the Town of Bridgewate­r, provincial and federal government­s and the Affordable Housing Associatio­n of NS. They also rely on private donations. They accept financial donations and are in need of specific items such as tents, bedding and cellphones.

“And a storage locker,” Shannan says. “We really need a storage locker for larger items like mattresses.”

Lunenburg and Queens County residents currently experienci­ng housing insecurity can contact SSODA at 902-521-0994 or intake@

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