The Out of the Cold Emergency Winter Shelter will open its doors for the last time this season on the eve of April 30. The shelter has been open since November without any formal funding, run and operated almost entirely by volunteers. “We have provided shelter for fifteen people almost every night” notes Capp Larsen an organizer of the shelter. “The shelter is unique in the service it provides, we are housing people who the other shelters refuse to take in, this is a shelter of last resort” Larsen continues.
Although the shelter will be closing down for the season, the will and momentum to create change amongst shelter staff and users will not cease. A political action committee has been struck amongst the shelter’s workers and organizers to address issues relating to housing and shelter access throughout HRM.
The Committee held a public information session on March 31 to build awareness around issues and solutions pertaining to homelessness. The multipurpose room at the Bloomfield center was packed for the session. Over one hundred and fifty people listened keenly while Fiona Trainer, Community Legal Worker with Dalhousie Legal Aid Society informed the crowd that “the government of Nova Scotia is ignoring shelter users by refusing to acknowledge the Out of the Cold Shelter.” Trainer posited that there is no need for government consultation in considering solutions to poverty and homelessness: Income Assistance rates are too low and Canada’s National Housing strategy is abysmal, the solutions are clear, Trainer continued.
Capp Larsen urged the crowd to take action while acknowledging the systemic problems at the roots of homelessness. “The root issue is how housing is structured; the social value of land must be put before its commercial value.” Larsen provided examples from across the globe of grassroots action that have been taken to forward the struggle for housing. From tent cities to squats she notes that taking direct action can both create housing and make a statement.
Tonight will mark the second public meeting held by the political action committee.
The meeting will take place on Monday April 12 at 7pm in the multi-purpose room in the Bloomfield Centre, 2786 Agricola St.