This blog post was provided by Colleen Ritchie, Communications & Fund Development, Shelter Nova Scotia.
Think back to a time when you have been in crisis or a difficult situation. Have you ever lost your job, suffered family separation, been treated differently, or judged? Now imagine dealing with all of that when you don’t have the comfort and safety of a place to call your own whether that is a home, an apartment, or a room where you can have privacy. For most of us this is unimaginable, but for some, it is an everyday reality.
No matter what, everyone has a past and those in crisis did not plan the experience they are surviving right now. Some people experience crisis once and with support can move away from it, while others will have a lifetime of challenges. No matter what, everyone needs a place to rest their head, and at Shelter Nova Scotia, that is where we come in.
At Shelter Nova Scotia, our mission is to support people in times of crisis and transition with short and long-term support through our emergency shelters, community residential facilities (often known as halfway houses), supported housing in our residential apartments, money management and eviction prevention support through our trustee program and outreach services via our housing support team. As a 2008 amalgamation of two 30-year-old organizations, St. Leonard’s Society of Nova Scotia and Metro Turning Point, Shelter Nova Scotia performs lifesaving and life changing work.
This is Matthew’s Story
Matthew* is a long-time client of Metro Turning Point, one of two Shelter Nova Scotia emergency shelters.
In four years, Matthew stayed at Metro Turning Point over 40 occasions, totaling approximately 650 nights in shelter. After much support, he began to believe he could make a change as he developed enough self-confidence to put his best foot forward. Even though Matthew worried about living independently, he formed a positive relationship with a landlord he met with our Housing Support Worker. Matthew was approved for an apartment and before his move, he worked with our Housing Support Worker to develop plans to manage “hard to handle” situations like consistently losing your keys. This gave Matthew the confidence to move into independent housing , knowing he could handle things on his own.
Matthew needed someone to believe in him and help him believe he could do it all on his own, and that’s where Shelter Nova Scotia came in.
*Matthew’s name changed to respect his privacy.
“Every person has to decide to do something, or to do nothing.”
The stories of those we serve are as varied as the individuals who come to us. Serving people like Matthew , we have come to understand that trauma has contributed to the life circumstances of those we serve in both sides of our work, those experiencing homelessness and those transitioning from corrections back to community.
On any night of the year, Shelter Nova Scotia could host up to 159 people overnight in six facilities, as well as support 150 people with our trustee program, and connect with 80 people in the community with outreach services. The people we serve have often experienced trauma in their past, usually from growing up in a provincial child welfare system, experiencing mental health issues, or coming home as a veteran with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving the country at war. They have all experienced trauma of some kind.
A volunteer, donor, and changemaker working to shift the conversation about stereotypes and marginalization, Sarah sums up her experience quite simply:
“Every person has to decide to do something, or to do nothing. My decision is to do something. If you are not yet ready to do something, ask questions, do research, and find out what is happening for people who are experiencing homelessness and transitioning back to community. Asking questions makes a difference. We don’t know what we don’t know. It is easy to live in a bubble, but once you know, I believe people will be compelled to do something.”—Sarah, a Shelter Nova Scotia volunteer and donor