Demand for Sydney homeless shelter exists year-round

Laura Jean Grant
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SYDNEY — While the demand for homeless shelters is often at its greatest in winter when temperatures plummet, a Cape Breton operation is seeing a year-round need for its services.

It may be the middle of the summer but traffic at the Community Homeless Shelter for men on Margaret Street in Sydney is steady, according to supervisor Tim Spencer.

"There's a great need," he said. "Since last summer, it's been steady. We're getting anywhere between six clients a night to 10 or 11."

With a capacity of 12, Spencer said the shelter serves clients from all over the local area, as well as some men who arrive in Cape Breton from other parts of Canada with no place to go.

"We're the only homeless shelter right here in this area. It does fill a need in the community," he said.

Spencer said the shelter provides a range of services to its clients.

"We have light meals that we provide, there's a place where clients can take a shower and there's also an outreach program here," said Spencer, noting an outreach staff member works with clients to find long-term housing options.

Operated under the umbrella of the Cape Breton Community Housing Association, the Community Homeless Shelter is a non-profit, charitable organization directed by a volunteer board of directors. The majority of funding for the shelter is provided by the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services, with the Cape Breton Community Housing Association's charitable foundation and the United Way of Cape Breton also contributing.

For anything beyond core funding, Spencer said they rely on donations from individuals and businesses — like one from the Sydney location of Home Depot, which donated supplies to do some upgrades at the shelter, as well as 10 of its employees to install it Tuesday.

"We're replacing the flooring, we're replacing all the blinds, we're replacing window valances, we're updating all their light fixtures and light bulbs with new energy-efficient ones," said Darlene Cuff, assistant store manager.

In addition, a fundraising effort at the store recently resulted in a donation of $18,500 from Home Depot to the Cape Breton Community Housing Association.

"We're pretty lucky to have a corporation give back to the community like that," said Spencer. "It's filling a need here. It means a lot to us."

Spencer said anyone interested in donating to the shelter can do so online at www.cbcha.ca. Donations of clothing and personal items for men are also accepted at the shelter.

During the summer months the shelter is open to clients from 8 p.m.-8 a.m. Those hours are extended during the winter months to 6 p.m.-10 a.m. daily.

ljgrant@cbpost.com

Organizations: Community Homeless Shelter, Cape Breton Community Housing Association, Home Depot Nova Scotia Department of Community Services United Way

Geographic location: Sydney, Cape Breton, Margaret Street Canada

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