Shelters are opening their doors to more Nova Scotians to help keep them safe as frigid temperatures settle into the region.
They’re adding beds and extending hours this weekend to ensure no one is left out in the cold. Environment Canada has issued an extreme cold warning for the entire province with the temperature expected to feel dangerously low on Friday night at -43.
The Beacon House Emergency Shelter at 125 Metropolitan Avenue in Lower Sackville is one of many that have opened their doors to welcome more people in from the cold.
Board Member Jim Gunn says the shelter has doubled its capacity for the weekend in response to the temperature plunge.
“With the new 20 more beds moved in Thursday,” he says, “we’re able to double our capacity and serve those in the city who could not get shelter because the city is overloaded.”
Gunn says buses are helping to bring people from the city to the Sackville shelter and others in HRM to ensure they’re warm and safe.
He adds no one will be turned away.
“We’re ready to take more than 40 if we have to,” he says. “It would be hard to turn somebody away — we don’t want to.”
Joy Knight, the executive director of Employment Support and Income Assistance with the Department of Community Services, says many shelters have been expressing the same desire to help.
“That’s the amazing thing about the people that do this work,” she says. “They will do whatever it takes to make sure that people are supported. We’re hearing that across the sector.”
She says the department worked with partners and front-line workers to ensure demand is met during the cold snap, with warming centres opened up and capacity expanded at shelters including additional hours and more beds.
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“We have ensured there’s capacity in the sector to far exceed the numbers that are known,” Knight says. “So anyone who comes forward who we don’t have on our radar has a safe place to go.”
She says it’s estimated roughly 100 people in the Halifax area are sleeping rough and in need of the support of the emergency weather plan.
Shelter Nova Scotia encourages anyone who needs help to call 211 for information on shelter space and warming centres.
Gunn says for those who have been living rough, it’s a huge relief to walk through the shelter’s doors.
“You can get that sense that they’re just glad to be here and they’re glad to be cared for.”
He adds pets are also welcome to join their owners.
“We learned through our experience this year how important pets are for those who are out in the cold and those who are hungry,” Gunn says. “The pets we understand now help.”
Halifax Search and Rescue says its vehicles will hit the roads this weekend to keep an eye out for anyone who is sleeping rough along with help from police.
It’s expected the temperature will start to warm up on Saturday afternoon.