KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The Out of the Cold shelter, which was set to close at the end of April, will be able to stay open until June 30th, thanks to some federal funding and a landlord willing to extend the lease until then.
“We just got confirmation today that Reaching Home, our federal funders, will continue to fund us until then,” says Michelle Malette, the executive director of the Out of the Cold Community Association.
This is good news. Lack of suitable and truly affordable housing is a pervasive issue in Halifax that is only getting worse over time. We’ve run several stories on the shelter situation lately, and almost all people we interviewed mentioned how the loss of 25 beds that Out of the Cold provides would make an already very bad situation even worse.
For that matter, it’s more than shelter beds that Out of the Cold offers. The organization runs a food security program, a place to take a shower, and through its use of a common room it is often able to give even more people a roof over their heads, Malette says.
“We have all genders, we have someone here right now with three dogs, obviously, they could not stay somewhere else. We have folks who have some pretty significant challenges around substance use and alcohol and mental health. We have actually gone through a process this year where we’ve prioritized folks who are actually not able to access other shelters,” Malette says.
“We have what are considered really high acuity folks, but it’s generally a really lovely and calm space, because we are super low barrier. Every time something comes up, we just really encourage everyone to kind of lean into it,” she says,
Of course Out of the Cold will face the same problem again come July.
Malette would like both the province and the city to come to its aid. As well, the organization would like to offer not just shelter beds, but also more long term supportive housing.
At this time the province only provides enough funding to pay for one staff member, Malette says.
Malette is looking at the city to see if it can offer up a space. She’s been looking at the old library on Spring Garden Road, she says.
“It’s a good spot for us. And it’s a big building. I have no idea what it would cost to run it, but I’m hoping at least the city would have something else for us,” says Malette.
“If we had a building, we could access federal funding, and of course the province would also have to step up. In order to be funded by the feds there’s got to be some buy-in from another level of government,” she says.
“We may still provide shelter beds next winter but we would also hopefully by September be set up in a new space, doing long term supportive housing. Also, we want a space where we can offer showers and laundry and food and things like that, because there’s nobody doing that on a consistent basis anymore, and right now we offer these supports 24/7,” says Malette.
“We always say that shelter beds aren’t an answer, and that we need to focus on supportive housing. But right now, there’s not enough of anything. So I don’t see how there can’t be shelter beds.”
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