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Not enough beds for homeless people in Truro

Katie Upham is worried about having to turn clients away from Truro’s homeless shelter.
Katie Upham is worried about having to turn clients away from Truro’s homeless shelter. - Fram Dinshaw
TRURO, N.S. —

The Truro Homeless Outreach Society is sounding the alarm as it's forced to turn away clients for the first time ever.
Katie Upham, THOS’s client navigator, says the likely causes are skyrocketing housing costs and a lack of support for mental health and addictions.
“It’s awful – we don’t want to turn anyone away,” said Upham, who also oversees volunteers. “Really, I feel the government needs to do something about providing more affordable housing or giving those on disability more income for rent.”
Clients who cannot be helped in Truro are referred to other shelters in Halifax or New Glasgow.
THOS has 12 beds for males and three for females, plus one fold-out cot. The shelter could use a second cot under its building fire code, but Upham said it will “almost be dangerous.” 
Previously, however, THOS’s existing capacity was enough to help it through spikes in homelessness.
But Upham said THOS was stretched beyond its limits starting in June and running the shelter at full capacity is “very expensive.”
With the summer-long spike in clients, Upham and her colleagues have not had to confront the possibility of being unable to help people in winter.
“That would be heartbreaking,” said Upham.
Last winter, THOS typically saw five to 10 clients every night, well below capacity.
Asked why numbers are lower in winter, Upham said travelling was harder for transient people. Some landlords may also be more reluctant to evict tenants when the weather is freezing.
However, summer brings out homeless people, many of whom rely on services such as housing support downtown. Upham herself works during the day to help clients find affordable housing.
As homeless people usually lack vehicles, they are forced to stay downtown, close to organizations who can help them. But it often also means staying in the least affordable part of town for housing.
“The proportion of homeless people is rising and it’s worrisome,” said Upham.
THOS is open all night from 7 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. for clients. Homeless people receive a hot supper and breakfast, plus a packed lunch for the day.
Upham has two volunteers looking after clients at night. She is in urgent need of more, owing to the influx of homeless people. 
To sign up as a volunteer, call Upham at 902-956-3750 or email volunteer@trurohomeless.ca.
For more information on THOS activities and events, visit https://www.trurohomeless.ca or the Truro Homeless Outreach Society’s Facebook page.
THOS is located at 862 Prince St.

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