Sydney parish starts fundraising to open homeless shelter
Parishioners at a Catholic church in Sydney -- nearly lost to the Thanksgiving flood of 2016 -- are now on a mission to help the less fortunate.
They are fundraising tens of thousands of dollars to help open a new homeless shelter.
The people of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic Parish in the south end of Sydney know what it's like to be down on your luck.
Two-and-a-half years ago, their church was underwater and it took months to repair the damage.
Father Bill Burke always wanted to give back to the community that helped the parish reopen.
He got an idea when he heard a sobering stat on the radio.
“I was driving in the car one day, and I heard this statistic that at a given time on a particular afternoon in Sydney, Glace Bay, New Waterford, there were 137 homeless people.”
Burke has first-hand experience with homelessness.
At his previous parish downtown, people with nowhere to go would knock on his door for help.
There has long been an overnight shelter for men, but Burke became part of a committee looking to create one that would be open 24/7.
Plans for the new shelter are now in place.
But $200,000 is needed over the next two years to repay a loan.
Burke knows the power of his parishioners - they fundraised to bring a Syrian family here a few years ago.
So he threw down a challenge this past weekend.
“Since we raised $50,000, actually more than $50,000, in a short period of time to bring the Hamadi family in. I kind of issued a challenge: can we not raise fifty thousand dollars for this local need as well?”
People at the parish are confident they can get the job done.
“I think it's a fantastic idea,” said Anne-Marie Dwyer. “And I feel the people of this parish will be very happy to contribute to something that is so necessary.”
Said Susan MacEachern: “I know a lot of people were involved in the flood, and getting things back on track, so I think it's a great way to give back to the community.”
The new homeless shelter will open on Townsend Street.
When it opens, it will be available to men, women, and youth -- filling what is currently a bit of a void in the community.
Burke wants the new shelter to help people get back on their feet, so they can escape homelessness.
“I think as we see that happening, it will have its own reward,” Burke said. “We will feel a great sense of gratitude and thanks for that.”
The parish is happy to pay it forward, to the community that helped them when they were down and out.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ryan MacDonald.