In Halifax, the arrival of November has come with increasingly chilly weather. Amid a year of economic hardships and a pandemic, there is more concern than ever that the number of homeless people forced to endure the season’s inhospitable weather is growing. With even crueller winter months approaching, those on the frontline of the problem are treating the issue seriously and with urgency.
Shelter Nova Scotia public relations and fundraising manager Jayme Lynn Butt says providing care for the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a complicated process.
“480 people are experiencing what they would call homelessness in the Halifax Regional Municipality,” says Butt. “The reality is that COVID has allowed us to make significant renovations to our facilities that we needed – but it means we have less beds.”
The Maritimes isn’t the only region struggling to care for its homeless population. Nationally, ensuring shelter for those without a place to live during the pandemic is all too common. With the economy down and unemployment rates up, stress levels have increased for many Canadians who are living with fear daily.
“Roughly 16 per cent of Canadians are somewhat worried about paying their housing costs over the next month,” says Nanos Research president, Nik Nanos. “This problem is urgent.”
Meanwhile, Butt says, compared to 2019, there are more people seeking beds at a time when they aren’t as available. However, shelters offer other services in addition to beds.
“Just because you don’t have a bed in one of our shelters doesn’t mean we are not providing every other type of service that we could,” says Butt, who notes Shelter Nova Scotia will be providing sleeping bags, warm clothing, and hot food as the days get colder and demand increases.