Nova Scotia

Growing demand prompts Sydney shelter to move into bigger location

The only emergency homeless shelter in Sydney, N.S., has moved to a bigger and better location. The Community Homeless Shelter has moved from Margaret Street to Townsend Street.

'It's very difficult to find affordable housing right now in this community'

The Community Homeless Shelter opens at its new location on Townsend Street in Sydney, N.S., Monday night. (Holly Conners/CBC)

The only emergency homeless shelter in Sydney, N.S., has moved to a bigger and better location.

The Community Homeless Shelter moved from Margaret Street to Townsend Street and opens Monday night.

"It's doubling our space," said Fred Deveaux, executive director of Cape Breton Community Housing, which owns and operates the shelter.

The number of beds will increase from 18 to 28 and there is room for cots if more beds are needed.

The move, which was cost-shared between Housing Nova Scotia, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and Cape Breton Community Housing, comes in response to a growing need.

"It's bad out there," said Christine Porter, executive director at the Ally Centre of Cape Breton, an organization that serves people with mental health, addictions and homelessness issues.

Christine Porter, executive director of the Ally Centre of Cape Breton, says there's a great need for emergency shelter beds in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. (Holly Conners/CBC)

"We've come to work with people sleeping under our steps," she said. "One gentlemen was in our driveway on a chair just totally covered in blankets."

Prior to a year ago, the Community Homeless Shelter took in men only. Since it went co-ed last December, it has seen its client numbers almost double.

"It's very difficult to find affordable housing right now in this community. We have very low vacancy rates and people are living in poverty ... they can't always afford rent and amenities and food and everything else that goes along with having independent housing," said Deveaux.

The former shelter was located in an old, repurposed house and was "very cramped," said Deveaux.

The 11 beds for men were consistently filled, said shelter supervisor Tamiesha Emanuel.

"Unfortunately, not having the space, we've had to turn some men away," she said.

Community Homeless Shelter supervisor Tamiesha Emanuel and Cape Breton Community Housing executive director Fred Deveaux show off the kitchen in the women's wing of the new shelter facility. (Holly Conners/CBC)

The new building is split into two wings — male and female — each with its own kitchen, living room, laundry facilities and separate secure entrance.

Each wing has seven rooms and two beds in each room, plus space to add cots if demand is great.

An elevator will be installed in the coming months, making the building fully accessible.

'It's going to be great'

The shelter will also have housing support workers on-site to help people find affordable long-term housing and connect them with other support services.

"I'm really happy that it's going to be in this area, in the vicinity here, because we share a lot of clients," said Porter. "It's going to be great."

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About the Author

Holly Conners is a reporter and current affairs producer who has been with CBC Cape Breton since 1998. Contact her at holly.conners@cbc.ca.

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