Nova Scotia

Despite supports, shelters say they need more during COVID-19 spread

While the province has announced new income assistance supports in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, two Halifax shelters say more support is needed.

New income assistance supports announced, but shelters say more is needed

The Out of the Cold Emergency Shelter is being operated out of the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre. (Submitted by Jenna Chisholm)

The province's minister of community services has announced steps to help vulnerable Nova Scotians cope with the outbreak of COVID-19.

Kelly Regan pledged $1 million to Feed Nova Scotia to buy food and hire more staff, as well as $2.2 million for people on income assistance.

"This will provide additional support for food, cleaning supplies and personal care items," said Regan.

Each person on assistance, along with each member of their family, will receive an additional $50. Some could get the money as early as Friday and it will not have to be paid back.

She also pledged $230,000 for senior safety programs, and for the next three months no tenants can be evicted because their income has been impacted by COVID-19.

'People won't be able to give the way they used to'

Meanwhile, volunteers at the Out of the Cold emergency shelter in Halifax said some of their clients are riding the free buses because they have nowhere else to go during the day.

At night, more than 30 are sleeping on cots. But Jeff Karabanow, one of the shelter organizers, said major changes are in the works.

"As things get worse with the pandemic we just won't be able to function the way we've been functioning," said Karabanow. "We're going to be a 24/7, which we've never been before for 10 guests."

But for that to work the province will need to fund some new shelters in the community.

"They would take people from all the (existing) shelters so they can be at low capacity and enact public health protocols," said Karabanow.

Halifax shelters are asking for help amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (CBC)

At the Phoenix House shelter for young people, everyone has their own bedroom, but there are new rules about social distancing. Only two people will be allowed in the kitchen at one time and a maximum of 10 people can be together at mealtimes.

Melanie Sturk, a director of organizational development at Phoenix House, is more worried about the long-term impact of the pandemic. Sturk said three fundraising events that could have brought in more than $60,000 have been cancelled.

"As this continues we're going to still see impacts," said Sturk. "People won't be able to give the way they used to as people figure out how to make ends meet."

Sturk hopes Ottawa will soon announce financial assistance for charities and non-profits similar to the programs announced for small businesses and individuals.