Operators of homeless shelter see the need

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NEW GLASGOW – December was a steady month for the Life Centre, and while things have slowed down a bit this month, workers there are still working hard to meet the needs of people in crisis in the community.

Director Keith Hazzard said the reasons for homelessness typically don’t have much to do with the weather, such as it being colder, but more to do with circumstances.

Oftentimes they see people who are homeless because of family problems or drug addiction. But they open their doors for much more than that.

“That’s one of the misconceptions we want to make sure people understand is that the Life Shelter is for men, women and families. If there’s a house fire or flood situation and they don’t have the means to go to a hotel, we’re here to help.”

The word homeless has a stigma attached to it, he said, but the organization doesn’t want to be trapped by that word.

“If someone’s in crisis. If they’ve had a house fire or they’ve had a flood in their home and they need a place to go for a night or two until they can make family arrangements we want to be that place for people. We’re here. We’ve got the facility. We want to make ourselves useful to the community that supports us.”

He said they try to work closely with Roots for Youth, a shelter for youth as well by helping to ease their load where they can. If they have a young person come to them, they’ve been able to send them to the Roots house as well.

For volunteers, he said they’re doing OK this year, but there’s always a need for more.

“It seems like life is always moving, so there’s always a few staff who have to leave us or their work shifts change or their health situation changes,” he said. “We really do need to keep a fresh supply.”

As far as finances go, the Life Shelter is just getting ready for the Coldest Night of the Year event, a fundraiser, which will be held on Feb. 22. The Coldest Night of the Year is walking fundraiser that raises money for the hungry, homeless and hurting in 65 communities across Canada. There will be a 2, 5 and 10km walk held on the Saturday.

Since 2011 the Coldest Night of the Year has raised $2.4 million.

Last year was the first time it was held locally. About $15,000 was raised which was a huge financial help, Hazzard said.

Right now, promotions director Dawn Peters and project assistant Karen MacDonald Bjarnason are going around to talk to people in the community to encourage teams to take part.

He said there are also opportunities for companies to make a corporate sponsorship of the event.

For more information on the Coldest Night of the Year, check out http://coldestnightoftheyear.org/home

Organizations: Roots, Roots house

Geographic location: Canada

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