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Souls Harbour Rescue Mission opens first location in Cape Breton


At Monday's grand opening of the new Souls Harbour Rescue Mission location in Sydney Mines, N.S., some in the crowd had personal experience when it comes to the need in the community.

"I've lived it. I was homeless myself just a few years ago,” said Norman MacIntyre.

MacIntyre and Karen Bona attended in part because they know what it's like to be unsure where their next meal might come from.

"I'm not ashamed to say it, I go to the food bank in Sydney Mines,” Bona said. “We just got to do what we got to do."

The area's councillor says with the cost of living, there is another demographic that will benefit from a place like this.

"I know I've seen the issues with homelessness, addiction, poverty, being hungry,” said Cape Breton Regional Municipality councillor Gordon MacDonald. "Knowing that we're an older community, and people who are on a fixed income are going to have a place to go. We're right across from the seniors complex, and I know they're excited to have it here. Hopefully we're going to be able to expand and just make people feel like there's a place for them to go."

People gather inside the new Souls Harbour Rescue Mission building in Cape Breton on Feb. 26, 2024.

Along with the new kitchen on Main Street, Souls Harbour has also purchased land in Sydney and plans to eventually open another location in Cape Breton's largest community.

As for why they decided now was the time to come across the causeway for the first time, they say the numbers speak for themselves.

"It's such an undertaking for us. We're coming into this community to make a difference,” said Cherry Laxton, chief operating officer for Souls Harbour. "Some of the statistics that we heard (included) that there are 600 families currently living under the poverty line right here in Sydney Mines. So that's a lot of people who need some extra help."

The Sydney Mines Souls Harbour location was ready to open on Monday thanks in part to thousands of dollars raised and donated, and untold hours of labour put in to make sure the building could meet the organization's needs.

While the socioeconomic struggles people faced were not far from everyone's minds, the event also had a tone of celebration.

"This is a great thing for our community, and it just goes to show that when northsiders pull together, this is what they can achieve,” MacIntyre said.

Souls Harbour says their new Sydney Mines location will serve food Monday to Friday, from noon until 3 p.m.

They added that their first-ever Coldest Night fundraiser in Cape Breton raised more than $48,000, which Souls Harbour says will help provide nearly 10,000 meals.

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