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Shelter forced to turn people away on severely cold night
HALIFAX -- On Saturday, a frigid winter day in Truro, Nova Scotia, volunteers at the town's only homeless shelter prepared for a full house.
"We provide hot meals, other things like personal care items, clothing, as well navigator services – so we help clients find permanent housing," says Truro Homeless Outreach Society vice-chair, Krista McNair.
The shelter, the Hub House has 16 beds, which have been at capacity for the past year. Unfortunately, this means that every night, volunteers have no choice but to turn people away.
"'Overwhelming' and 'endless,' are the two biggest words for me, that I think about every day," says Hub House client navigator, Stephanie Watson. "I constantly come in and say, 'I don't know what I'm going to do,' because we are running out of options."
Watson says homelessness is on the rise in the community, and she believes there are several reasons why.
"The first being a housing issue – so cost versus wages; the second being addictions and the third being mental health," says Watson.
Officials say more government support is needed. The province says there are two housing support workers in Truro; however, they're not affiliated with the shelter.
The Truro Homeless Outreach Society relies solely on support from volunteers, fundraisers and financial donations – mostly from the United Way.
"All of the volunteers run the place," says McNair. "Basically, we have paid night-shift staff that would come from some of that fundraised money."
Both Krista McNair and Watson say it is heartbreaking to turn someone away – especially during severely cold nights. After being turned away many of those in need seek shelter at the local hospital, the police station and even banks.
"Somebody who was in a house fire came with just a duffle bag and had nowhere to go," says Watson. "We had to tell him there was no beds left."
Forced to close the door on the people in their community who need help the most, volunteers say they'll continue to lobby government for support in hopes that, one day, homelessness won't be such a big issue in their small town.
Meanwhile, the shelter is expected to be at capacity, continuing into the winter months and possibly into the summer. Volunteers say they continue to welcome non-perishable food donations, gift cards and more volunteers.