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Halifax Out of the Cold shelter no longer first-come, first-served, now based on referrals

The shelter is making big changes to its organization by implementing a new referral-based system and reducing the number of beds

3 min read
caption St. Matthew's United Church on Barrington Street, Halifax NS
Molly Woodgate
St. Matthew's United Church on Barrington Street, Halifax NS
caption St. Matthew’s United Church on Barrington Street, Halifax NS
Molly Woodgate

Out of the Cold (OTC) Emergency Winter Shelter is a last resort shelter that now wants referrals for its beds. In addition, this year the shelter will only have eight beds in comparison to the 15 beds it had the year before.

OTC is a temporary shelter that is open from Dec. 1 till Apr. 30 to offer a safe place for the homeless to stay during the cold winter nights. The shelter is located at St. Matthew’s United Church and is only open at night.

Jeff Karabanow, a spokesperson for OTC and a Dalhousie University professor, said the changes were needed because new organizations have been created that can help the homeless.

“There is more capacity in the existing shelters and we don’t want to be a Band-Aid on a Band-Aid,” he said.

Karabanow said they do not want people leaving other shelters to stay at OTC.

He said how the referral system will work is that people will call into the Dalhousie School of Social Work Community Clinic to book a bed, but only if nothing else is available.

“The person phoning has to…look for more sustainable housing,” he said.

Sister Sheilagh Martin is member of the Sisters of Charity, one of the community partners for OTC. She said the changes are “a worthwhile initiative.”

She also said many cities across the country have similar programs, but they don’t solve the problem of the lack of suitable housing.

Last minute additions

Stephen Hurshman and James Daisley are both planning on using the OTC shelter tonight. Both men say they’re currently homeless.

Daisley said it would be his first time going to the OTC shelter and he will only need it temporarily until he gets a new place.

“I got a new place in mind, but I can’t get it yet until my [social] worker finalizes it,” said Daisley.

Hurshman said he has used the OTC shelter two to three weeks at a time in the past.

“I am stuck on the street,” he said. “I am hoping to get a place to sleep.”

Daisley said he does not trust the other shelters he has been at and wants somewhere quiet to sleep.

“People in Metro Turning Point, people in Salvation Army, all those places have a habit of taking stuff from you, and you can’t do nothing about it,” he said.

Karabanow said there will be two emergency beds for people who need a place to stay at the last minute and have nowhere else to go. On the weekends all of the eight beds will be emergency beds because the Dalhousie School of Social Work Community Clinic is closed, and it could not take referrals.

“We really want to fight back to make resources that are funded, that are professional, do the work they are supposed to be doing,” Karabanow said. “And we can kind of really be that last resort for people who can’t go anywhere else.”


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