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On the street - Kingston church calls meeting to tackle homelessness issue

Rev. Christine Gladu, of the Kingston United Church, hosted a meeting on homelessness Nov. 26 with about 40 people attending. She hopes the community will be able to provide more help to people who find themselves on the streets. She also said a look at the root causes of homelessness is necessary and long-term solutions must be found.
Rev. Christine Gladu, of the Kingston United Church, hosted a meeting on homelessness Nov. 26 with about 40 people attending. She hopes the community will be able to provide more help to people who find themselves on the streets. She also said a look at the root causes of homelessness is necessary and long-term solutions must be found. - Lawrence Powell
KINGSTON, N.S. —

Christine Gladu isn’t sure that everything possible is being done to help people who become homeless in the Kingston, Middleton, Greenwood area – so she held a meeting.

“The reason behind it all is that we have had this summer, and still have, people who are on the street with no resources at all,” she said. “And as a community, as any other church or any other community organization, these people come to us – in the end they come to us to have support, to have help. And we don’t know what to do.”

Gladu is the minister at the United Church in Kingston and had first set the meeting up for the Village office, but when responses to invitations started coming in, she realized she needed a bigger space and moved it to the local Lions Club hall. About 40 people showed up from other churches, from the RCMP, from government departments including Municipal Affairs and Housing, and Community Services, Premier Stephen McNeil’s office, local MLA Leo Glavine’s office, and a number of organizations such as Open Arms, Project Hope, the Upper Room Food Bank, the Seniors Safety Program, the Rotary Club of Middleton, and the Village of Kingston.

And they talked for more than two hours.

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“My first objective was to put all the people together so we know what’s out there as resources, so we can tap into those resources and help people who need help,” Gladu said. “Homelessness, from what I see and from what I’ve studied recently, it is a very complex issue and it is a symptom of something more important. It’s only a symptom. So there are more important issues that will need to be addressed by this province eventually so that there is less and less and less homelessness and people desperate. But it’s a start. It’s to put everybody together, see what’s out there. What can we do? What do we need?”

About 40 people attended a meeting in Kingston Nov. 26. The topic was homelessness and the conversation lasted for more than two hours.
About 40 people attended a meeting in Kingston Nov. 26. The topic was homelessness and the conversation lasted for more than two hours.

COMMUNITY

Much of the talk was about community capacity to deal with homelessness, long-term solutions to the causes of homelessness, and the possibility of building a shelter or crisis centre.

“They are part of the same, but the thing is, as Brandan Grant (Municipal Affairs and Housing) said, building a shelter could be just something like a plaster over a wound. It is an old-fashioned solution,” Gladu said. “As Cyd Lepage (Municipal Affairs and Housing) said, we should work in prevention … before it’s too late. I believe that maybe we will need a shelter. Ultimately there is no other place to go, but I very much am in agreeance with these two people who said we need to work … where the problems occur at first before we fall into homelessness.”

While she agreed there are already a lot of resources in place, she believes they are insufficient and often see the local homeless being sent to Kentville and even Halifax.

“What is being offered to people are solutions. Some of them are very short-term. They will last for a time,” she said. “The problem could be deeper for certain people. Mostly those who have mental illness and substance abuse.”

MANY CAUSES

But Gladu said there are many other causes that lead to homelessness.

“Poverty. Loss of employment,” she said. “And it is also symptomatic of a regional situation where people are growing older, people are losing their jobs because companies are closing their doors, so we end up with problems at the very basis of society, our little micro-society, that then cause all the other ones to happen. Ultimately it has an impact on our health system, on our housing system, on our food, the way we eat, and ultimately of course education.”

While looking into homelessness and its root causes is not a religious exercise, Gladu said that Christian values do come into play.

“Most of the people I know were raised with Christian values, and on a simple human basis we are all children of God,” she said. “We are all human beings with the same basic needs. In 2020 it is the least of things we can do to make sure everybody has access to a minimum of comfort.”

John Morash with Kingston United Outreach, runs a program called Soup that provides a meal once a week for anyone who wants it. He said the meeting was productive.

“There are some resources that are out there that, even though I’ve been studying this problem for many years in the area, some of the resources I just wasn’t aware of,” he said. “And 211 was mentioned as sort of the go-to reference several times. But there’s actually some issues with 211 because it’s based out of the city … they’re a great resource, and it’s a great structure to start with but it’s not updated in the rural areas and some of the information is inaccurate or incomplete.”

SOLUTIONS

“If we want a real solution it has to be community based because some of these people are the ones in our community that are suffering,” he said. “They’re from here. They belong here. Their support structure is here but their support structure may not have the resources that they need to meet all those needs. So we need to know what is available and how to best connect people with resources that are available. I want to keep people in their communities if that’s where they want to be.”

Another meeting is scheduled for March 10 and Morash believes there is a lot that can be done before then.

“We can stay in touch with the group. We can form a network so we can communicate freely. We do have some new ideas and supports that we can add. We can call in to 211 and update them with some of the information. And make sure that everyone who attends these meetings is aware of that information so that we can help the people that are coming in to us between now and March. We can work towards more permanent, long-term solutions.”

One of the ideas Morash mentioned at the meeting was using hotel rooms as temporary shelter in the winter.

“The other thing is we need to follow up with people,” he said. “People fall through the cracks because they get a little bit of service here, and they wonder off until they find a little bit of service somewhere else. Nobody coordinates the services that are available and nobody gets to know them as a person and human being well enough to assist them the best way possible.”

Join Kingston United Church on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/kingstonunitedpc/

Contact them at: 902-765-3621.

Did you know?

Inn From The Cold operates from five local churches with the assistance of police and many community volunteers. Emergency shelter has been provided for approximately 1,200 individuals over the past 12 years. Currently they only have the resources to operate the emergency shelter from November through April. Contact 902-365-3665.

Did you know?

The CMHA-Kings County Branch of Project Hope in Kentville is funded by the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy for Rural Communities. Contact Laurel Taylor at 902-679-7573. https://kingsns.cmha.ca/programs-services/project-hope/

Did you know?

Open Arms Berwick Outreach is located at 200 Mill Street and is open Monday (2 to 4 p.m.), Wednesday (10 a.m. to noon) and Friday (10 a.m. to noon). For more information or to volunteer call Steave Hingley at 902-691-1525. https://openarms.ca/

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