As the cold weather sets in, it's a race against the clock to get the new winter overnight shelter in Dartmouth, N.S., ready to open.
The shelter, in the former St. Paul Church on Windmill Road, is slated to open in mid-November. But the co-executive director of 902 Man Up, which will provide wraparound services at the site, said there's still lots of work to be done before they can set an opening date.
"We're just making sure that the building is in good shape, up to code, making sure washroom facilities and things like that are up to date," Marcus James said.
"So when people do come through the doors, they see [that] and feel safe."
Marcus James is the co-executive director of 902 Man Up. The organization will be providing wraparound services at the new emergency shelter at the former St. Paul Church in Dartmouth. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC)
The organization is working to hire staff, ensure there are enough showers for the co-ed shelter and install laundry facilities.
James is hopeful the shelter can open sometime this month.
"It's long overdue, to be honest. We currently run a shelter up on North Park [Street in Halifax], so we understand and recognize the urgency in having a facility like this. So we're working as hard as we can," James said.
The space will have 50 beds, with capacity to grow to 100 if needed. People staying at the shelter will receive three meals a day.
"The sooner we're able to open, the better off people will be ... It's not a solution to homelessness, it's far from it. But it's about getting them in out of the cold," James said.
The Nova Scotia government is funding the building rental, operating costs and wraparound services. The Halifax Regional Municipality is supporting property maintenance.
'A good step forward'
Paul Hughes, 52, welcomes the shelter's opening.
"I think it's a good step forward actually, like if it's going to take people out of this situation," he said.
For the past two months, he's been treated in hospital for health issues he said arose from his time living at an encampment site not far from the new shelter site.
"You're not eating properly, so basically your resistance becomes kinda weak. And you start getting maybe high or drunk to deal with it, and it's just an ongoing circle," he said.
Paul Hughes, 52, said the overnight shelter expected to open in Dartmouth in mid-November is 'a good step forward.' (Gareth Hampshire/CBC)
Hughes said he's in better shape now, largely because he's been eating three meals a day and spending nights indoors with people caring for him. But he's being released from hospital on Friday.
"I'm probably gonna have to come right back here [to this encampment]. I'm a little weary about it, I have some anxiety. But I'm just taking it day by day," he said.
It's estimated there are more than 200 people in the Halifax Regional Municipality currently living in tents. About half are in Halifax, and the rest are split between Dartmouth and Sackville.
Hughes knows first-hand how quickly shelter beds fill up amid the growing number of homeless people. He said he's been approved to stay at the shelter in the DoubleTree hotel but there are no rooms available.
Prior to speaking to CBC News, Hughes had not heard about the overnight emergency shelter being set up at the former St. Paul Church, though he is familiar with the space — he was baptized there as a baby.
With winter just weeks away, he's hoping there will be room for him at the new shelter.
"Just to have a bed, a warm room to sleep in, makes all the difference," he said.
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