Nova Scotia

Town of Amherst votes to help finance emergency shelter

The Town of Amherst has passed a motion to contribute funding to an emergency shelter but the mayor says he fully expects funding to come from higher levels of government.

Mayor says town wants to prevent anyone from freezing this winter

Amherst town council has voted to approve funding for an emergency shelter, but anticipates funding from federal and provincial sources. (Robert Short/CBC)

The Town of Amherst has voted to contribute funding to an emergency shelter.

According to Mayor David Kogon, the longer-term goal is to provide more affordable housing but, with winter approaching, it was decided that an emergency shelter was needed in the interim.

Kogon said funding for a shelter should come from provincial and federal sources, but the town wants to show that it is willing to pitch in, if necessary, to get the job done. 

"We're talking about trying to develop an emergency shelter that will be available this winter so that nobody freezes to death because they don't get a roof over their head," Kogon said.

Kogon said a large group that includes town council and Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin has been meeting to discuss developing a shelter as well as the next step of providing more affordable housing.

Amherst Mayor David Kogon says he doesn't want anyone in the town to freeze to death this winter because they do not have a place to call home. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)

The town did not decide how much it was prepared to contribute. It focused on making a commitment should a contribution from the town become necessary, Kogon said.

Smith-McCrossin said there are 40 people "living on the streets" of the Town of Amherst and Cumberland County.

She said the town didn't have a problem with visible homelessness in the past and, if people needed a shelter, they would be sent to a neighbouring community like New Glasgow or Halifax.

Those communities, she said, are now sending people back because they don't have any more capacity.

Smith-McCrossin said the onus is now on the town and county to come up with solutions to ensure their people are protected.

Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin has been leading the push to get an emergency shelter in Cumberland County. (Robert Short/CBC)

"We need to help each individual person with whatever their situation is and try to find support care," she said.

"We are going to find ways to help them so that next winter we won't need a shelter because we'll ensure that everyone is housed and being given the supports that they need."

Aiden Kivisto, the manager of community development at the YMCA of Cumberland County, said there isn't a suitable place with wraparound services to support people who have no place to live.

Kivisto, also a board member of Cornerstone, the Cumberland Housing and Homelessness Support Association, said Cornerstone is working to create a transitional housing centre. But Kivisto said an emergency shelter is needed almost immediately.

"The snow is gonna start flying and the cold weather is coming," Kivisto said.

Kivisto said an area church has been identified that can serve as an emergency shelter and work can begin once funding is obtained.