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Truro homeless outreach society providing hope

Officials with the Truro Homeless Outreach Society are hoping to reach a solution with town council for dealing with vagrant individuals in the downtown core.
Officials with the Truro Homeless Outreach Society are hoping to reach a solution with town council for dealing with vagrant individuals in the downtown core. - Harry Sullivan

TRURO, N.S. – Since this year began, Truro Homeless Outreach Society (THOS) has assisted nine individuals in finding permanent housing.

“The landlords in town have been actually great in working with me,” said Amanda Oake, the society’s community navigator.

Although Hub House operates as a homeless shelter, the society’s larger goal is to end homelessness, one individual at a time. Oake works with individuals who stay at the Hub House shelter to help improve their living situation.

“I sit down with each and every person that stays here,” Oake said, of intense intake interviews.

Since opening in November, Hub House has had an occupancy level of 1,252 bed nights and has served more than 3,800 meals to 90 individuals.

“Providing one-on-one support to assist guests transitioning from shelter services to secure community accommodations fills a crucial gap in Truro's housing continuum,” said THOS spokeswoman Jolene Reid.

But it hasn’t always been easy. Beyond dealing with challenges posed by some homeless individuals, who sometimes arrive with mental health issues, response from the community can be mixed.

Some feel the downtown core is not a proper location for a homeless shelter, or that its mere presence is a draw for transients from other communities who end up panhandling on Truro’s streets.

“I just know we have gotten a lot of negative feedback,” said Oake.

“Our shelter being here does not play a contributing factor to people’s behaviours. And I hear everybody’s stories, where they come from, what they’ve been doing and why they’re here. And I would argue that because the shelter is here, isn’t bringing them here.

“There are homeless people everywhere. Whether people want to believe it or accept it, there are homeless people everywhere.”

That sentiment is shared by Hub House administrator Dwight Griffiths.

“Living in a shelter is not indicative of being a disservice,” he said. “The majority of people that I’ve met since I’ve been here, have actually just been intrepid travelers from across the country.”

Griffiths said his experience with shelter residents is they have been respectful of house rules, don’t use vulgar language and are appreciative of the service. Some just require temporary assistance to get back on their feet.

“So, winter time is a time for that,” Griffiths said.

For those who would prefer the shelter be operated somewhere other than on Prince Street in the downtown core, society treasurer and executive member Dick Cotterill argues otherwise.

“As far as location goes, my personal feeling is it’s a perfect location,” he said.

“I think the location is great because we depend on donations to exist. And we’re highly visible. If we were a block off Prince Street, I fear our donations would drop. Every day people come in with clothing and shoes and money so from our point of view it’s a wonderful location.”

He added it’s not only those directly connected with the society who share that opinion.

“I’ve talked to some downtown people who are very supportive of us being there,” Cotterill said.

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