Now that the Truro Homeless Outreach Society has selected the site for its permanent home, a lot of work is happening behind the scenes.
The non-profit organization has been running since its inception toward finding a piece of land within the town that would be suitable for the construction of a new year-round shelter. It’s settled on 12 Mills Street – the street often used as a shortcut by motorists travelling on Walker Street who want to turn onto Queen Street.
“We’ve secured the land,” said Jim Murray, the society’s chairperson. “It wasn’t an easy process. We had to jump through some hoops to get things to this point but we’re there and we’re excited. We have an architect onboard, we have our design plans and now we’re working to fine-tune those plans to make sure the building is as functional as possible.”
Once the final design plan is approved, the next step will be shovels in the ground. Murray is hopeful that will take place as soon as early spring.
“If things remain on schedule, I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say we could be operational by the fall,” he said.
In the meantime, Murray says the Truro Homeless Outreach Society will continue to work with First United Church, which is where the shelter is currently located.
“The church has been a very co-operative partner,” he said. “They’ve actually been phenomenal. We have a great working relationship with them and we’re hopeful they’ll see us through to the completion of our own building.”
The need for a permanent shelter in Truro couldn’t come at a more critical time. In 2016, more than 150 people took advantage of the services offered by the facility and that number is expected to rise this year.
One of those reasons, according to Volunteer Co-ordinator Autumn Doucette, stems from the closure of the homeless shelter in New Glasgow.
“With New Glasgow closed, it’s left us as the only shelter in northern Nova Scotia,” said Doucette. “Lately, we’ve been at capacity so it further highlights the importance of this build.”
When it eventually opens its doors, the 20-bed shelter will be able to accommodate both male and females. Murray says the current plan is also designed to deal with the possibility that families could use the facility.
“It’s a sad thing but now, more than ever, it’s a true possibility,” he said. “The physical layout of the building will be respectful to the privacy of both males and females while the centre portion of the building will serve as a common area or as we like to refer to it, the pulse of the facility.”
The shelter is currently open from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. However, Murray says that will change as well.
“We’re not looking to carry over the hours we’re currently open,” he said. “We’re running with the idea we want to be 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With that, we can begin to host different types of programming in addition to being able to point guests in the right direction when it comes to the services that exist.
“We see it as an all-inclusive operation that won’t be built just to meet the present needs,” Murray added. “It’s being built for the present as well as the future.”
It’s been a whirlwind of changes for the Truro Homeless Outreach Society in recent months. In addition to finding a permanent site for its new home, there’s been an overhaul of the organization’s board of directors.
The new chairperson is confident in the group’s abilities as it prepares to tackle its largest challenge to date – a new building.
“One of the biggest things we’ve put across to the board is the importance of working together in an effort to make it more cohesive,” said Murray. “I’m very excited about the board we have. Every member has a vested interest in the completion of this project. The goal was to bring a group together, run a tighter ship, include everyone in the process and not have some people who say everything and some who say nothing.”
Changes at the board level haven’t been overly noticeable to the community. However, the fact they’ve chosen to drop the Hub House name has caught the attention of some.
The society has decided to welcome suggestions from the community when it comes to naming the facility. That will include approaching local schools in an effort to get the younger members of the community involved in the process. The board believes, because the shelter is a community-based, community-funded operation, it’s important to include the community.
“We believe opening up the process will create community involvement and awareness,” said Joshua Creelman, vice-chairperson. “Many of the local students are aware and pay attention to social issues like homelessness at a very early age so getting them involved can only add to that awareness.”
Up to date information can be found by searching Truro Homeless Outreach Society on Facebook.