Nova Scotia’s provincial government is announcing 40 additional shelter beds for homeless people at two locations in Halifax.
The Housing Department says in a release Monday that funding of $1.7 million will create 25 beds at the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre and an additional 15 beds operated by the North End Community Health Centre.
Housing Minister Chuck Porter says the announcement is motivated by the continuing presence of COVID-19 in the city and the oncoming colder weather.
He says the spending will replace beds lost when shelters had to remove beds due to physical distancing requirements.
Both organizations expect to begin opening the beds in the coming days and be fully operational by the end of the year, and the funding agreements will be in place until Dec. 31, 2021.
Pam Glode-Desrochers, executive director of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, says her agency’s homeless client numbers have doubled since the beginning of the pandemic.
“We know that there’s still a lot of community members that are probably falling through the gap. We have community members that are at risk of being homeless due to loss of job due to the pandemic obviously has changed our lives dramatically,” said Glode-Desrochers to Global News.
“So we know that we have a huge increase in those numbers and continually expect it to continue to go up.”
Glode-Desrochers said a lot of the shelters had to reduce the number of people.
“They had to actually allow community members to social distance and those beds were lost.,” she said. “So while the shelters continue to operate, unfortunately, they’re operating at less than the regular capacity. And that’s through no fault of their own. That is so that people can make sure that they are following the guidelines as put out by our province.”
In the meantime, Glode-Desrochers said the centre is working on a plan that will allow for the social distancing to occur, and that the new space will be big enough to allow it to do that.
She said the new space will be an opportunity for community members to come in and have a shower, do laundry if they wish and have a warm meal. The space will also be open for men, women and children.
It will also be a place where people can access cultural programming to ensure Indigenous people supported by their community, so they’ll have access to elders and ceremonies.
“We know that this is just a Band-Aid solution. But it is a true gift. I’m very thankful that this is a gift and it will make a big impact,” Glode-Desrochers said.
“My job is to ensure as we move forward that this shelter doesn’t get lost. It will be for Indigenous community members also, if we have an empty bed, if somebody came to us, we certainly wouldn’t turn them away.”
—With files from The Canadian Press