TRURO – Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
That’s the message Kevin Withrow was broadcasting at the Farmer’s Market in Truro on Saturday morning, as he campaigned for awareness with his group of volunteers, the Truro Homeless Outreach Society (THOS).
Together, the volunteers handed out brochures and cards letting the public know of the problem that can often hide itself, and what they have been doing to help.
“People think just because they don’t see people out in the streets every night, that there is no problem,” Withrow said. “But homelessness doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t have a type. It can look like any one of us here right now.”
For the last four years, Withrow has been a part of Out of the Cold, a non-profit group offering shelter to the homeless during the winter months. The program, which operated out of several different churches in the town, produced success and helped several people find permanent residence. However, Out of the Cold only ran until March 31, often leaving many of its clients without a place to sleep on April 1.
“It’s troubling,” Withrow said. “We had to shut out doors every spring, when a few of our clients had nowhere else to turn.”
Out of the necessity for extra help, a meeting was called in January to gage interest in doing more.
“We had quite a crowd show up, and out of that crowd grew this.”
With the motivation to do more, THOS was created with the plans to launch a year round shelter, called Hub House. Permits are being gathered and Withrow has been looking into potential locations for the shelter.
While plans are still being hatched, the group said it would like to see 15 beds, opened year-round from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., with partnerships formed with related groups throughout the community and province. It will be volunteer-run at first, but Withrow hopes for paid positions to come along. However, with its money coming from grants and charitable donations, it could be a while before the group is in a position to hire for pay.
While the group has been met with naysayers who don’t believe there is a homelessness problem in Truro, Withrow disagrees.
“This past winter, we were averaging about eight people a night. I know that’s only eight people in an entire town, but there was a need for it. That’s eight people every night who had nowhere else to go.”
Continuing on the process of the Out of the Cold program, THOS will focus on a “whole person” approach to serving its clients, meaning it will tailor its services to the needs of the person.
“This isn’t going to be a handout,” Withrow said. “A handout doesn’t help anybody, and it doesn’t solve the problem. This will be more like a hand-up, where we give a person the chance to change their situation.”
Withrow hopes to get Hub House up and running by November, but has a more realistic date of April 2015.
For more information, including how to donate or volunteer, contact the Truro Homeless Outreach Society at firstname.lastname@example.org.