New homeless shelter to open next year in Sydney
Goal will be to help men, women and youth staying at the shelter find permanent housing
A new shelter to be built in downtown Sydney, N.S., next year will offer more than just a safe place to sleep for men, women and children who have nowhere else to turn.
Some of the funding earmarked for the 14-room shelter will be focused on helping people find a place they can call home in the long term.
"We expect that homelessness be short and non-recurring and that the shelter be a process and not a destination," Fred Deveaux, executive director of the Cape Breton Community Housing Association, told a news conference Monday.
The Nova Scotia government has committed annual funding of $618,000 once the shelter is up and running later in 2019.
In the meantime, the province is investing $134,000 in renovations to Sydney's existing homeless shelter on Margaret Street to accommodate women.
"This is important to this community," said Derek Mombourquette, the Liberal MLA for Sydney-Whitney Pier. "We need to make a strong commitment and we're making that commitment today."
Deveaux said beds are badly needed, especially for women. Hundreds of women without a place to live have been referred to his non-profit agency in the past few years, he said.
The need for the shelter was highlighted by research that started several years ago in the community, including a study on affordable housing by Catherine Leviten-Reid, an associate professor of community economic development at Cape Breton University.
"We know that people of all types fall through the cracks, but we think it's particularly people who are by themselves and who are of working age," said Leviten-Reid.
She said much of her research showed that people of that demographic don't have as many housing options.
"The single person of working age who is not yet a senior, those folks aren't eligible to live in public housing," she said. "And there's a lot of not-for-profit housing that's targeted for seniors and families."
She said the new shelter will bridge some of that gap.
"All of us on this group understood there was a homelessness situation in Sydney, but we had no idea of the severity." - Father Bill Burke
The building for the new shelter was secured by a nine-member group that mostly wishes to remain anonymous.
One of its members, Father Bill Burke of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Parish in Sydney, said the group was shocked to discover the extent of the community's homelessness problem.
"All of us on this group understood there was a homelessness situation in Sydney, but we had no idea of the severity."
He's hopeful of what the new shelter will provide.
"It's a matter of respect and dignity and when people are broken — and homelessness is a very severe form of brokenness — and we can reach out and not just put a roof over their heads, but to help them put their lives back on track," said Burke.
"And that can only be done when they are in a place where their dignity is respected."