A Hal­i­fax sub­urb takes on home­less­ness

Vol­un­teers in Lower Sackville are open­ing a warm­ing cen­tre in a lo­cal church to help

StarMetro Halifax - - HALIFAX - YVETTE D’ENTREMONT

Vol­un­teers are open­ing a warm­ing cen­tre in a Lower Sackville church as early as Feb. 1 to help ad­dress the is­sue of sub­ur­ban home­less­ness in their com­mu­nity.

“It was just as­ton­ish­ing to all of us that we found out there were so many peo­ple, these pock­ets (of home­less­ness),” ex­plained Al­lan King, one of the vol­un­teers who spent the last three weeks ex­plor­ing the fea­si­bil­ity of a warm­ing cen­tre.

King was tasked with de­ter­min­ing how many peo­ple might be home­less or un­der­housed and to find out where they were stay­ing.

What he dis­cov­ered was deeply trou­bling. Peo­ple were sleep­ing be­hind Knox United Church on Sackville Dr., in cars in the li­brary park­ing lot, near the Sackville Su­per­store, and even by the river that runs along the trails con­nect­ing Bed­ford to Sackville. He also learned peo­ple were sleep­ing in front of the po­lice sta­tion in the neigh­bour­ing com­mu­nity of Bed­ford.

“What we have un­cov­ered I think is a re­al­ity in our com­mu­nity, and that re­al­ity is that there’s a lot of peo­ple out there hurt­ing, a lot of peo­ple need­ing help, and more that prob­a­bly down the road will need help.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tions, faith groups, ser­vice clubs, po­lice, the com­mu­nity health board, emer­gency man­age­ment, and oth­ers all sup­port the ini­tia­tive. About 20 peo­ple met at Gate­way Com­mu­nity Church, the fu­ture site of the warm­ing cen­tre, on Thurs­day to dis­cuss how to pro­ceed. The meet­ing was hosted by the church’s Barry Smith, one of the plan­ning com­mit­tee mem­bers.

Or­ga­niz­ers hope to open the cen­tre on Fri­days and Satur­days from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. start­ing Feb. 1. The plan is to ex­pand those hours as quickly as pos­si­ble, with the goal of open­ing seven days a week from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“Where we’re at now is we kind of think it’s im­por­tant to start some­thing be­cause it’s win­ter and the last two nights have been a lit­tle warmer, but the night be­fore it was -15 or some­thing and when you get wind chills, that’s pretty se­ri­ous,” ex­plained com­mit­tee mem­ber Mike Poworoznyk, for­mer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Metro Turn­ing Point shel­ter in Hal­i­fax. Poworoznyk said they need about 30 vol­un­teers will­ing to work fourhour shifts.

YVETTE D'ENTREMONT/STARMETRO

Al­lan King is one of four vol­un­teer com­mit­tee mem­bers bring­ing a year round warm­ing and cool­ing cen­tre to the sub­ur­ban com­mu­nity of Lower Sackville. They hope to have it up and run­ning as early as Feb. 1.

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