KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Over the last three and a half months Adsum for Women and Children has spent some $50,000 on hotel rooms for people needing emergency shelter.
That’s something the organization can no longer sustain, at least not at the current rate, says Sheri Lecker, Adsum’s executive director.
“For a number of months we told people that we will do this as long as we have money, and we just kept saying yes. But it is not a solution, and it’s not something we can sustain. We can do maybe two or three hotel rooms per night, but that’s it,” says Lecker.
These are not just people who fit Adsum’s mandate.
“Many of the people we pay for are not people we are typically working with, some of them are men, some are seniors, some are families, sometimes they’re affected by violence, many are people who have not been on our radar before,” Lecker says.
The idea of offering hotel rooms to people who needed a roof over their head was born from COVID’s first arrival in the province. People were told to stay the blazes home, which is difficult when you don’t have a place to call your own. Earlier on there was some federal money to pay for hotel rooms, funneled through Affordable Housing Nova Scotia, but that stream ended, and Adsum stepped up. The province has been mostly absent in all this.
How do you decide that this person can have a room and that person can’t?
The people who received help all had their own unique stories to tell, says Lecker. And the same will be the case for the people who now no longer will receive this support.
“How do you decide that,” Lecker asks. “How do you decide that this person can have a room and that person can’t?” That’s also why we kept saying yes to these requests, because how could we not? It was very cold out. It was raining, or it was snowing.”
Meanwhile, despite many organizations’ best efforts the number of available shelter spaces has shrunk due to Covid. And no new affordable housing has been created, while vacancy rates among truly affordable units are near non-existent.
Adsum has a lot on its plate at the moment, says Lecker. Earlier this year the organization received federal money, funneled through the municipality, to build 25 new affordable homes in Lakeside for women, families and gender-expansive folks who are experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. Adsum is raising an additional $1 million to construct an adjacent community space for offices and programming as well as landscaping and a natural playscape.
“That $50,000 we spent on hotel rooms, at that moment it was the right thing to do, but otherwise, we would have used it towards construction of a more permanent solution,” says Lecker, who expects that the new development will support between 45 and 55 people.
We need many more of these concrete solutions, Lecker says.
“We need to act and we need to stop talking. It’s a small community, but there’s a lot of expertise. And the people we do this for, including people who are over-represented like African Nova Scotians and Indigenous people, are well able to express what they need,” she says.
Initiatives like the one Adsum is developing in Lakeside are part of the long term solution, Lecker says.
“That is ultimately what will make a difference for people, to have permanent homes that they can truly afford, that they’re proud of, and that allow them to go about their lives.”
But with the province so reluctant to act, what to do for the people who need help right now is much less clear.
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