Low-income family forced apart due to lack of family shelters in Halifax
A program at Adsum House helped assist an entire family that had to split up due to the lack of family shelters in Halifax.
Lara Simpson, her Scottish husband Steve and their two children returned to Canada last year after living in Europe. They bought an RV, explored the country and decided Nova Scotia would be their home for good.
“We had a tentative buyer set up for the RV, thinking we would sell it when we got here which would help us set up a home and then job prospects for the future,” says Simpson.
But the buyer fell through. As their savings swindled, the family was forced to live in their RV in a parking lot. But no fixed address meant no job prospects.
“We eventually got to the point where we realized we need help, we need to get out of this situation we're in,” says Simpson “It was starting to get into September time and we knew we couldn't stay in the RV any longer.”
When looking for help, Simpson was told in order to qualify for income assistance, they needed either a fixed or a shelter address.
“The problem is, I believe in most of Canada, there are no family shelters. So if we go into shelter, we have to be split up.”
Simpson's husband stayed in the RV while she and her two children took shelter at Adsum House, which is just for women and children. That's where they found the help they needed through the Diverting Families program.
“Basically the whole concept is diverting families from shelter completely or trying to decrease the amount of time that families have to stay in shelter,” says Melissa Matheson, case manager for Diverting Families.
Simpson says Diverting Families was able to find an apartment for her family.
“We were able to be back together,” Simpson says. “The look on my kids’ faces to be able to wake up in the morning with their dad there, that is just the most important thing.”
There are several shelters in Canada that accept families with both the father and mother, but none in Halifax.
Matheson and Simpson say the need is there.
“I think right now we have currently 14 families under caseload and we just started in September. Over the last week we've had six intakes. They're coming left right and centre from all different places from within the HRM area, so it's big,” says Matheson.
The program offers families immediate help with things like rent and general support. Six months later, Lara Simpson and her family are hoping to move into a new place this week.
“Being together as a family being put back together as a family, it's the most unbelievable feeling.”
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.