Dartmouth’s homeless population will no longer have to sleep out in the cold, thanks to a new emergency shelter.
The shelter — located in Sonlife Community Church’s gymnasium — will provide year-round emergency accommodation. It will have 15 beds, positioned in a dorm style arrangement, and will take in men, women and children. Beds will be stored away during the day and brought back in at night.
Although the church is providing the space, the shelter will be run by a newly formed non-profit group, the Dartmouth Shelter Society. The group was founded by Warren Wesson.
Wesson, a former drug addict, has used emergency shelters in the past. He said providing support to the homeless in his own community is a “lifelong dream.”
“I’m making my own bed. I’ve needed this system twice in my life,” said Wesson, who has been clean for 10 years. “I’m not the only one in the world who wants to be clean, or to have a place to stay … that’s why we’re here.”
Wesson said the Dartmouth shelter will provide short-term housing and food and also connect guests to a range of services, including help for addiction, mental health and food insecurity.
“I have friends who have been discharged from hospital and sent to an overnight shelter and their conditions got worse. Poorly functioning beds, lack of supervision, being in the same room with people who still need full-time addiction treatment … we aren’t just offering beds,” said Wesson.
“We are going to be offering a complete set of services for recovery.”
Two reports, conducted in August and April 2018, on housing insecurity confirm the need for more shelter beds in the municipality.
The April report from the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, found 204 emergency shelter beds were available for a homeless population of 220 in Halifax. Eighteen homeless people were unsheltered and five were in police cells.
The August report, from the same group, determined seven people were homeless in Dartmouth. At the time of the report, Dartmouth had no emergency shelter beds.
Sonlife pastor Chuck Kelades is proud to be providing the space to those in need.
“Homelessness in Dartmouth has been a concern for all of us here at the church,” he said. “We want to make a positive impact and to reach out and engage with our local community. This is how we can connect and make a difference.”
Kevin Hooper, manager of partnership and community development at Halifax’s United Way, said although the shelter is a step in the right direction, affordable housing is a more sustainable solution to homelessness throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality.
“There are issues of homelessness and hidden homeless all over HRM, and Dartmouth is no exception. It’s great to see community members coming together to work on solutions,” said Hooper. “Although shelters are helpful for putting a roof over people’s heads, we need to create more safe, appropriate and affordable housing solutions which creates a healthier community for all.”
The shelter is located at 152 Windmill Rd., Dartmouth. Guests will be accepted beginning Friday, Jan. 25, but the formal opening is scheduled for Feb. 1.