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A community sign for Sackville.

Sackville working to help those sleeping rough as winter approaches

By Skye Bryden-Blom Oct 18, 2022 | 11:04 AM

Concerns for those who are sleeping rough in Nova Scotia as colder weather descends on the region.

Some are struggling to make ends meet as the housing crunch continues with prices soaring and some areas experiencing a zero percent vacancy rate like Lower Sackville.

Paul Russell is the councillor for the region and tells our newsroom homelessness isn’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future, but there are ways to help those sleeping rough especially as we head into winter.

He says right now work is underway to move tents where people have been living along Sackville Drive.

“One of the things that is changing is the homeless encampment that is currently by the Little Sackville River, between King of Donair and Boston Pizza,” Russell says. “It’s going to have to move and the designated location that we have is the Correctional Centre Ball Field, which is on Cobequid Road. So over the next while, we will be working to facilitate that move. It’s not ideal by any stretch. But it’s going to be as good as it can be given the circumstances.”

The municipality is working to make sure they have certain things to make the move easier, like winterized tents and better sleeping bags.

Russell says donations of food and other supplies are always welcome at that encampment.

The Sackville Area Warming Centre at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish on Metropolitan Avenue also accepts donations and is currently searching for volunteers. Its doors opened for the season to help keep people warm on Monday.

“Our greatest need is having volunteers to join our team so we can continue to operate through the winter with a goal to open all week through,” the group states in a Facebook post.

The centre is committed to operating from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Russell says there are several other organizations in the community if you’re looking to lend a helping hand including the Freedom Kitchen at Knox United Church and Square Roots Lower Sackville, Beacon House, and Gateway Food Bank. He says volunteering your time and energy along with donations can go a long way to help these organizations that assist those who are at risk amid the climbing costs of living.

“We have a strong community that is working to try and make it better and to support those who really need the support,” Russell says. “So if you can help out in any way … that is very much appreciated. We have a strong sense of community here. I’m looking at that, and I’m trying to see what we can do to make it even stronger.”

Russell reminds Nova Scotians that times have been tough for many and it’s not too hard to see how challenging it can be to find a safe and affordable place to call home.

“This is something that I’ve been talking about for a number of years – the risk of housing,” Russell says. “We have a zero percent vacancy rate. I’ve been talking to people and saying that the risk of housing is on all of us. Any of us has a high risk of having a housing problem. If we are living in our own house and we have a fire for example, and the house burns down. Where do we go? Well, right now there is nowhere.”

He looks forward to seeing more development in Lower Sackville, including the completion of apartment buildings that have already been approved. Eighteen buildings are either being built in the community or are in the late stages of planning. Most would bring in about 1,000 to 1,200 units.

Russell believes they will help to ease the burden of the housing crunch a little bit. He estimates the ideal vacancy rate for the area is 3 to 4 percent.


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