Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth installs first tiny shelter
The first of 20 tiny shelters being built by the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth is now in its new home – the parking lot behind St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Dartmouth.
The single occupancy 8X8’ structure has a metal roof and siding, painted gyprock walls and linoleum flooring. There’s a bed with a shelf at the head, under-bed storage, a wall-mounted heater, and a wired-in smoke and carbon monoxide detector.
Monday morning, the structure passed electrical inspection and the utility and power was turned out.
The shelter was constructed by a small manufacturing company, Well Engineered Inc.
Operations manager Neil Wolthers says the company approached the Archdiocese out of a passion for social justice and took on the project.
Reaching the final design took time, because city officials maintained it had to meet certain parts of the building code.
Wolthers says it’s all been a matter of ensuring occupant safety.
“So we don’t want the sides to fall in, or blow away, or catch fire,” he says, “so the discussions that we had with HRM were the applicable sections of the building code.”
“We had all the drawings and the permit application into Halifax late Wednesday, with a revision on Thursday, and they gave us approval on Friday, so things are happening really fast,” says Wolthers.
The shelter was installed Saturday, with cables that run from the structure buried into the ground to withstand Maritime winds.
The project manager for the Archdiocese’s emergency shelters program says seeing the project come to fruition has been emotional.
“It’s wonderful,” says John Stevens, “I almost cried on Friday when I was touring the engineering facility before they put it on the truck.:
“It's been a hard slog, from September to now to work everything out, and it looked like it wasn't going to happen at all, and then we got the green light and here we are.”
Stevens says the first resident – who will be determined in consultation with service providers and social workers - will move in as soon as possible.
The sole occupant will have to abide by an occupancy agreement which bans open fires, smoking in the shelter, and illegal drugs.
The shelter doesn’t have running water, but the church is providing a mobile toilet on the property.
But the occupancy is temporary according to the city permit – lasting until the end of May.
“We hope that over the 6 months of the winter,” says Stevens, “these folks will be connected with their service workers and be able to find the next step for them.”
The outreach coordinator for Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, which encompasses St. Anthony’s Church, says the parish had already been considering building its own shelters when the Archdiocese began its project.
Jennifer Deane says the shelter’s design, “exceeds expectations.”
“There are some elements of comfort there, so that's a real gift,” says Deane.
The shelter was delivered to the site complete with bedding, a pillow, a desk lamp, garbage bin, and blinds for the door – all provided by donation by Well Engineered Inc.
The parish intends to have three shelters on site. Deane says the community will offer supports to the occupants once they learn what is needed most, and the parish runs a food bank at the hall right next to the shelters.
“It's not perfect, it's not the solution, this isn't going to be a forever home for anybody,” says Deane, “but it's a step in the right direction.”
The cost of each shelter is $11, 500 with installation. The Archdiocese is hoping to raise the $230,000 needed through donations and private grants. So far it has raised $50,000.
Meanwhile, the municipality has been working on its own multi-million-dollar emergency housing plan. It has been giving weekly updates on the modular units, which are planned for two sites in the city, meant to shelter 62 people based on single occupancy.
According to the city's last update - the first units are to be completed in Dartmouth December 20th. The units on the Halifax side of the bridges aren’t expected to be finished until the end of January.
Back at the Well Engineered Inc. workshop, workers are busy putting together more of the twenty ordered by the Archdiocese. Four are close to complete.
The goal is to have them all built and installed by Christmas Eve.