Souls Harbour Rescue Mission in Halifax reopens Basic Needs Room

The room allows people to 'shop' for necessities – for free

When you visit Souls Harbour Rescue Mission, you’re treated as a guest — no matter your background.

For the past 10 years, Souls Harbour Rescue Mission on Cunard Street in Halifax has been serving hot meals, providing basic necessities, and acting as a place of community.

Despite — or maybe because of — the challenges posed by COVID-19, their operations are growing.

The Basic Needs Room, which has been closed for months because of renovations and then because of the pandemic, reopened on Monday. Guests can “shop” for necessities including clothes, household items, sleeping bags, shoes, hygiene products, and more.

Jessi Pawlovich with Souls Harbour Rescue Mission helps guests at the Basic Needs Room select hygiene products.   Darrell Roberts

The mandate for Souls Harbour Rescue Mission is “to feed and assist the homeless, hungry, and hurting,” said chief operating officer Cherry Laxton, in an interview at the Cunard Street location on Friday.

She said the organization opened the room because they saw a need that went beyond food and shelter.

“A lot of our guests just don’t have access to those extra funds to be able to purchase those basic necessities,” said Laxton.

The Basic Needs Room is operating from 12-3 p.m. Monday to Friday at a reduced capacity with physical distancing and sanitizing protocols in place.

It was a busy spot on Friday, and staff and volunteers try to keep items in stock.

Some of the hygiene products offered in the Basic Needs Room. Laxton notes that feminine hygiene products can be particularly expensive.   Darrell Roberts

Providing meals and a sense of community

The organization has been providing hot meals to people in the surrounding neighbourhoods for 10 years; however, Souls Harbour Rescue Mission provides more than food. Laxton says that the dining room has become known as a community hub.

“A lot of our guests come not even because they’re hungry, but just to get out of an apartment where they’re lonely,” said Laxton.

They were forced to shut their dining room down due to COVID-19, but they have continued providing meals to people throughout the pandemic.

“That was hugely important that people were still able to come and be fed, to have that little bit of personal connection with someone else outside their home,” said Laxton.

Will Radford behind the counter in the kitchen at Souls Harbour Rescue Mission.   Darrell Roberts

Laxton says there are several things people can do if they’re looking to help out. The organization accepts donations of fruit, desserts, granola bars, and other items that can be packed with takeout meals. People can also donate online through their website.

The organization is operating several other programs, some involving the Mission Mart thrift store in Bayers Lake.

Lisa Jarvis is a life coach with the Mission Mart who also spends part of her time at the Basic Needs Room. She helps volunteers with disabilities build their resumes.

She said that the program helps them find the right spot at Mission Mart “so that they can feel valued and feel like they’re giving back to the community too.”

Souls Harbour Rescue Mission is also working on plans to add 10 shelter beds at the Cunard Street location for men with addictions or mental health issues. The organization plans to create a program to help these guests overcome obstacles.

Darrell Roberts

Darrell Roberts

Darrell Roberts is a student journalist from St. John's. He enjoys reading and writing about the latest in culture and politics.

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