Dozens of people, including Halifax Mayor Mike Savage and Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais, slept outside Saturday night in an effort to draw attention to, and raise money for, the issue of homelessness.
Sleep Out for Change is the first of its kind in Nova Scotia, with about 40 people sleeping outside in front of HRP headquarters.
“There's guys that I know that sleep under the bridges. I've slept under the bridges, I've slept in doorways,” said Craig Tuck.
Tuck now has a home, but when he first separated from his wife, he was homeless for several months.
“I couldn't bring myself to tell my family or anybody. It takes a toll on you, you lose weight, you get stressed out,” he said.
Tuck said there are not enough shelters or programs for the homeless, especially men, in the Halifax area — that's the motivation behind the Sleep Out for Change event.
“What we're trying to say with the sleep-out is that it's not just government’s problem, it's our city's problem, our citizens problem and that we owe it to each other as human beings to take up the charge and make a difference for people,” said Colleen Ritchie, with Shelter Nova Scotia.
Ritchie said homelessness is often misunderstood. Most people aren’t on the street because they want to be, but because they have no option.
The number of homeless in Halifax is growing every year. In 2012 the number was around 2,000 but government funding has remained stagnant over the past few years.
Living on the street is something Jeff Karabanow knows all too well. He teaches social work at Dalhousie University and is one of the founders of the Out of the Cold shelter.
“There are some phenomenal organizations that out there day in and day out working in the field with a lot of homeless populations. It's very, very clear that they're over-taxed, overwhelmed and just underfunded,” he said.
Shelter Nova Scotia hopes to raise $100,000 throughout the event to support the homeless — a big amount for a small organization — but not nearly enough to really address homelessness and all the issues surrounding it.