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Truro homeless outreach society reaches out for help

Matt Gray, the volunteer co-ordinator with the Truro Homeless Outreach Society, has taken to the streets in an effort to recruit more volunteers for the shelter.
Matt Gray, the volunteer co-ordinator with the Truro Homeless Outreach Society, has taken to the streets in an effort to recruit more volunteers for the shelter. - Harry Sullivan

LOWER TRURO, N.S. – Standing on the sidewalk, cardboard sign in hand, Matt Gray said he gets some scornful looks from passing motorists – until they actually read his message.

“Volunteers NEEDED Truro HOMELESS,” his sign says.

“I find a lot of people were judging me because I had a cardboard sign, without taking the time to read it,” the newly minted volunteer co-ordinator with the Truro Homeless Outreach Society said, from the side of Robie Street this week. “When people actually read my sign, the look on their face totally changes.”

Gray is attempting to garner a host of new volunteers to help provide kitchen and supervision duties at the shelter in an effort to ensure all shifts are manned without having to put too much of a burden on a small crew.

The shelter is manned daily by a crew of two people from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. and another two-person crew from 1 to 7:30 a.m.

The team leader on the evening shift cooks supper while the volunteers assist with distributing the meals, doing cleanup, bed checks and so forth. The overnight crew provides general supervision, cooks breakfast and prepares a bagged lunch for each shelter resident.

During December, the shelter was taking in an average of 15 clients per night and currently is catering to a daily count of slightly more than 10.

Gray said the shelter currently has an active list of approximately 50 volunteers. But he is hoping to bump that number up by another 100 or 150 in the interest of spreading the shifts and responsibilities out as much as possible and not burning anyone out.

“Even with the volunteers we have, we have trouble filling all the days,” he said.

Gray had only planned to take to the streets with his sign for one day in an effort “to try to pass along the message that we have a homeless society and to try to get people to help,” he said.

“Once I got out here, I kind of liked it,” he said, of his own response to the motorist reactions. “A lot of people have said they’re very interested in helping out.”

After a Facebook posting went up following the first outing with his sign, Gray said it had received 275 shares and had been viewed by more than 21,000 people in less than 24 hours.

After another stint on Robie Street during a cold, blustery Wednesday afternoon, Gray said he was planning to head to the office to start getting back to a list of people who had expressed an interest in helping out.

And when contacted again on Thursday, Gray said he was planning to meet up with about 25 people who wanted to fill out applications so they could get started right away. But he is hoping for lots more.

“I’d like to have so many volunteers that you almost need to put three people in (per shift) so everybody gets a shift.”

To that end Gray was planning to spend some more time displaying his recruitment sign outside the Atlantic Superstore on Thursday and today.

Anyone wanting more information can call Gray at 902-956-3750 or by email at: matt@trurohomeless.ca .

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