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Online community comes together to support homeless in Lower Sackville, N.S.

A weekend fire at a homeless encampment in Dartmouth, N.S., is raising concern about the safety of the city’s unhoused population as winter approaches.

Even so, residents at one camp in particular are getting plenty of support from their local community, who are trying to make sure they’re safe, fed, and protected.

At any given hour, donations from random strangers are dropped off in Lower Sackville, N.S., with donors bringing everything possible to make life easier for the residents.

Communicating largely through a Facebook group with more than 6,000 members, the organization is also a full-fledged non-profit and the need is only growing.

“The population of this community is growing. Just this past week, there were 10 new residents that came,” said Stephanie Howell, a board member of The Gated Community non-profit organization.

“We like to make there’s a community here,” said Howell. “So everyone has a say in what’s going on and everyone feels heard and listened to.”

It seem to be working.

“It’s a lot better than any other encampment I’ve been in,” said one resident, who asked not to be identified. “The community here is really amazing and we don’t get that kind of support downtown.”

A ready stream of donations arrive all day and into the evening.

Following the group in Shubenacadie, Dawn Henneberry used a trip to the city as an opportunity to drop off a mattress.

“I actually picked it up from an older gentleman who had a brand new mattress, and it was too hard for his back,” said Henneberry.

A block away, at a popular pizza restaurant, the group hosted another drop-off and fundraising event Monday, with donors showing up even before it started.

The members weren’t surprised.

“Anybody who’s been to Lower Sackville can just attest that this is an amazing community anyway,” said Samantha Banks, one of the administrators for the online group. “And I think it really hit home for a lot of people. I think we all realized we were all one unfortunate situation, and a paycheque away, from being exactly in their situation.”

A sentiment shared by the resident.

“There’s always something around here to eat. I haven’t gone hungry in weeks.”

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