Halifax emergency shelter has more space, fewer restrictions after move
Although happy with the move, volunteer says the shelter is a Band-Aid solution to housing insecurity
January 17, 2020, 2:23 pm ASTLast Updated: January 17, 2020, 2:23 pm
After months of searching, the Out of the Cold emergency winter shelter has a new home.
On Monday, the shelter moved from St. Matthew’s United Church on Barrington Street to its new digs on College Street.
For the past 11 years, the shelter has operated out of the church. Volunteer co-ordinator Liam Power said while they are grateful to the church for hosting them, they’re excited to be able to operate out of their own space.
When they started looking for a new space, they reached out to the province and the Halifax Regional Municipality. The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre ended up helping them by allowing them to use their College Street property.
The shelter will be able to use the space over the next year, and Power’s hoping they will be able to continue in the future.
“It’s liberating that we don’t necessarily have to ask permission before we do something. We can do it. We’re responsible for our own everything,” said Power.
“We can have our own stove, we can have our own dishwasher, we can have access to a washer and dryer for people’s clothes which we didn’t have before.”
He said the kitchen is a key feature for them. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in the door and it’s capable of accommodating what they need.
When they get food donations to the shelter and they’re lucky enough to have a full fridge, volunteers will make meals for guests ahead of time so they’re served hot meals when they arrive.
“We’ve had a lot of support from our volunteers,” Power said. “We’ve got over 200 volunteers that commit their time to work one-on-one with guests. But we have even more volunteers in the background.
Outside the kitchen, there’s an open living room that acts as the drop-in space from 8:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. Last year, the drop-in space would have seen about 60 guests, with as many as 80 in severe weather.
When you exit the living room, there is a donation room where guests can find supplies like toiletries, pads and tampons, condoms and clothing.
Next to the donation room, there is a space set up with 15 beds. When supplies allow, guests will find a bag with supplies on their bed.
Power said the new shelter has been at capacity every night since opening earlier this week.
“We try to push people to other shelters, truthfully, because they can access a social worker. They can access just much more than we can provide,” he said.
“We’re an emergency shelter, we’re a pop-up shelter, we’re a Band-Aid.”
Power said it’s unfortunate that a need for emergency shelters exists, adding that until there are improvements in housing and vacancy rates, they are a necessity.
The 2018 Halifax Shelter Use Report from The Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia recorded 1,609 shelter users in 2018.
The shelter primarily exists to get people off the streets on cold winter nights.
“It’s cold. It’s so cold. The wind sucks,” Power said, voice cracking with emotion. “It was really hard delaying opening because we were looking for a space. Just because there are so many people that need beds.”
“It’s fantastic that we have such a good community that’s been very supportive of us,” he said.
Out of the Cold runs entirely on donations. They release a list of items that they need during the season. Right now they need the following:
- Underwear, including long underwear, in all sizes
- $5 gift cards
- Bus tickets
- Hand and feet warmers
- Juice boxes
- Juice mixes and crystals
- Peanut-free granola bars
- Tea bags
- Regular and decaf ground coffee
- Sandwich meats and cheeses
For new and gently used items they are looking for:
- Face cloths and hand towels
- Reusable shopping bags
- Metal spoons and forks
Items can be dropped off at 5853 College St. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Volunteer inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can stay updated by following their Facebook page.
Have a story idea? Let us know