A Halifax suburb takes on homelessness
Volunteers in Lower Sackville are opening a warming centre in a local church to help
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.
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.