Currently there is no emergency night shelter in Dartmouth.
Between December 27, 2018 and January 07, 2019 we surveyed 50 people across the HRM in seven locations.
We being myself and several volunteers.
As well we interviewed many people , be they clients accessing services or people working either as paid employees or volunteers for service providers however these interviews are not included in the survey data. These interviews are ongoing.
We primarily surveyed people near main bus terminals. Cobequid Terminal , Portland Terminal etc, as well as Alderney Landing and Halifax Ferry Terminal.
Our experience talking with people at Brunswick Mission Breakfast, Out of the Cold Shelter at St. Matthews Church, Turning Point Centre, lunches and suppers at Margaret House, St Peters Christmas Dinner were not part of the survey.
What we were after is general public perception with the survey.
I’m going to start with the business of homelessness. Eventually it will become obvious that I’m after intervening and blocking a significant number of current users of the existing shelter system from ever becoming homeless in the first place. Not everyone who accesses crisis shelter housing is chronically homeless. Most are not.
75% of people who access crisis housing , access it once and never again.
No matter where I go in the HRM I can find people that say Dartmouth is home.
When this miniscule report got underway, one of things that was interesting to me was how many people not living in Dartmouth, in discussion, felt there were lack of services persons in immediate housing crisis in Dartmouth.
Many were totally surprised there were none at all.
When we look close at the two federally funded 2018 PIT(Point in Time) counts, the reports, when I interviewed service providers and volunteers who partook in the PIT counts, it became apparent that local communities in the HRM, are not being considered.
One report specifically names Halifax as the community being served by the Homeless Partner Strategy. Essentially an area the size of Prince Edward Island.
We don’t have a transit system to even remotely entertain the notion that HRM is one single community. For someone with little to no means , or with mobility issues, geography matters.
One PIT count did 99% of research in front of a crisis center, the other did 0% of its research in front of a crisis center, largely because there aren’t any in Dartmouth. This paints for our Homeless Partner Strategists that one tiny area inside HRM has a need for crisis supports while others do not.
The question currently is simply, where did you live before the HRM and when did one move to the HRM.
I believe the question should be, on the PIT count, where in the HRM was your last address?
At the very least, what community in the HRM do you call home.
This change in data gathering I believe would be a cheap, big bang for the buck, change in the way we do the homelessness business in HRM, Nova Scotia & Canada.
And it is a business. A 33 Billion Dollar a year business in this country.
One of the best things that happened to me in 2018 is the collaboration between governments to give me a bus pass.
Take away my twenty dollar monthly transit allowance to get to my regular Doctor appointments, this allowance which precluded me from accessing Halifax Transit’s low income bus pass rate.
This pass, it’s real now, once stuff of legends, the bus pass. It promotes health and dignity. Freedom Bus Pass.
This pass contributed to my ability to create this tiny snapshot of public perception of our current emergency shelter system.
For the record at one time we did get these at our case workers discretion but the practice was halted as many were turning up at bus stations for sale. I’m glad it’s back, with a personal ID, making them virtually impossible to counterfeit or transfer to someone other than the owner.
This report is only that. A snapshot of public perception. Chapter one of what is a much larger report. A call to action.
We know it’s up to us to person up and take action on behalf of our vulnerable population. To be a voice for the voiceless. To take action with the power and resources our government has provided us to improve quality of life for all Canadians. No exceptions.
On a local level we can no longer base all of our support services in Halifax, force our persons in crisis out of Dartmouth, and call it a Halifax problem. This has to stop.
How quickly we can go from hero to zero?
Real quick. From having a home, a job, living with family, to alone & barely surviving.
From fighting for our country anywhere in the world to wondering where our next soup meal is coming here at home.
Very fast. In an instant. Literally an instant. With one life altering step into a crosswalk.
Intervention between systems on behalf of individuals falling through the cracks.
This is where I personally feel crisis housing supports can make the biggest impact preventing homelessness in the first place.
We’re going to take action. Because we can.