Souls Harbour to make bid for grant to create shelter at soup kitchen site

Souls Harbour Rescue Mission is making its third bid for the $100,000 grand prize awarded by the Aviva Community Fund, with hopes of creating a shelter at the Halifax soup kitchen.

Advocates say sleeping loft would help former inmates, students and recovering addicts

Souls Harbour Rescue Mission hopes to expand its soup kitchen site to include a homeless shelter. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

Souls Harbour Rescue Mission is making its third bid for the $100,000 grand prize awarded by the Aviva Community Fund, with hopes of creating a homeless shelter at the Halifax soup kitchen site.

"We're looking at a smaller group of people that we can work with in a more personal way," says Souls Harbour executive director, Michelle Porter.

Porter says she wants to build a sleeping loft at the centre on Cunard Street that will help former inmates, students and recovering addicts. Staff will also provide support, such as assistance with writing resumes, to help the guests find a place of their own.

Michelle Porter, executive director of Souls Harbour Rescue Mission, says Halifax needs a shelter to help homeless people who are in transition after being released from prison or recovering from addictions. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

Another shelter not the answer

Jim Graham, executive director of the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, says Halifax needs permanent housing rather than another shelter.

"The question really is around support," he says. "There are people, individuals and families, who require support to maintain and sustain their housing."

Graham says the municipality has 206 permanent shelter beds, increasing to 220 in the winter, and the occupancy for the past eight years has been roughly 87 per cent.

Souls Harbour Rescue Mission renovated its dining room after winning a $100,000 grant from the Aviva Community Fund. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

Porter agrees that helping people find permanent homes is what's most important, but in the interim, the people Souls Harbour is hoping to help may not be suited to larger shelters.

"I feel this is a really unique program in Halifax because, yes, we have shelters and that is great and we are getting more and more people into affordable housing. But there's this little group in between that just needs a little bit more attention."

History of success

Porter and her husband, Ken, founded Souls Harbour in Regina 17 years ago before establishing the Halifax charity in 2010.

Souls Harbour Rescue Mission is a soup kitchen on Cunard Street in Halifax. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

The Aviva Community Fund donates $1 million a year to different charitable community initiatives across Canada. Souls Harbour won the grand prize of $100,000 in 2014, when it used the winnings to renovate its kitchen. The organization won again in 2015 and used the money to finish the dining room.   

Souls Harbour's application must first be approved by an Aviva Community Fund committee. Public voting will begin in October.