Staying warm this winter a struggle for many

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‘There are a great deal of people that are living without oil, without heat'

TRURO - There has been great demand for heating assistance this winter, a local official says.

Arlene Stevens, with the family services department of the Salvation Army in Truro, gets ready to fax applications for the Good Neighbour Energy Fund, a program helping those in dire need of heating assistance. Stevens has processed close to 80 already this winter, with more to go.

Arlene Stevens, of the Salvation Army's family services department, said she has processed "a good 75" applications for the Good Neighbour Energy Fund so far this year.

"But there are a lot who have sent the application in themselves," said Stevens. "The majority of those applicants have been approved, that I have heard from, and those that weren't approved, many had received funding sometime in the previous three years."

With cold temperatures starting back in November and continuing throughout the winter, Stevens said there are a number of people that have had a tough season.

"To that end, there are a great deal of people that are living without oil, without heat. People are still coming to us for assistance. I had about 10 calls just last week of people that are out of oil," she said.

Stevens said this winter seems to be worse than last year, with many newcomers to the organization's food bank as well.

"We're getting calls from people that are having to choose between paying for their power and heat, and food, or rent. There are some that are being evicted. Landlords can't continue to have people staying rent free."

The Good Neighbour Energy Fund, administered through the Salvation Army, is available to people who meet the following criteria: those with low income, those in an emergency heating situation, those who have not utilized the program in the previous 36 months, and those that provide all requested information and supporting documents.

"The program goes until the 15th of April, or until the funds run out," said Stevens. "I still have a few applications here to send off too."

For those within the town that don't have their own home, they've been utilizing the Out of the Cold program.

Tillie Armstrong, co-ordinator of First United Church volunteers, said the shelter, which operates seven nights a week out of First United Church, saw six people use the shelter last Wednesday night.

"For the months of January and February, we had about eight or nine using the shelter each night," said Armstrong. "A couple have since found other accommodations, and one moved out of the province. The ones using the shelter now know we are only open until the 31st."

The shelter has been operating since November, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

It was initially expected to operate only four nights a week, however, volunteer co-ordinators urged the community to come forward and lend a hand, otherwise the initiative would be limited.

Because of the response, which included two new co-ordinators, the program was able to expand to seven nights a week.

"We operate on six volunteers a day and the churches and community have supported it very well," said Armstrong, adding the initiatives runs mostly on donations.

Work is continuing with a committee to try to establish a permanent shelter in the area. A Bible Hill resident, Audrey Bailey, rented a small apartment on Prince Street to help "fill in the gap" for homeless people during the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. when the shelter wasn't available.

Applications for the Good Neighbour Energy Fun are available at the Salvation Army church on Outram Street, or the Thrift Store on Forrester. Those needing assistance in submitting the applications can drop them off at the church.

Twitter: @TDNRaissa


Organizations: Salvation Army, Good Neighbour Energy Fund, First United Church Thrift Store on Forrester

Geographic location: Bible Hill, Prince Street, Outram Street

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