End of season for LifeShelter

John Brannen
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Despite successful year, director Hazzard said funding needed for full-time staff next season

NEW GLASGOW – Last night was the end of another season for the sanctuary that serves people living with poverty.

Pastor Keith Hazzard is shown inside the LifeShelter. After a successful second full season with three full-time staff, Hazzard is unsure whether enough funding will be available to hire full time staff for the next season.

The LifeShelter, which has been open seven days a week since November, has wrapped up its cold weather season. Keith Hazzard, director of the LifeShelter, said that the year is shaping up to be as successful as last year.

“We haven’t tallied all the visits yet but, in general, I think we’re close.”

The shelter is open to anyone who needs a place to rest their head, get a meal and positive social interaction on a short-term basis. The breakfast program, held in the building connected to the shelter, provides a morning meal to those who need one.

“It could be a relationship breakdown because tensions are high, the economy is off, addictions or mental issues,” Hazzard said. “Many of the issues we dealt with centred on the breakdown of the family unit.”

The shelter was fortunate to receive funding through Job Creation Program (JCP) through Employment Nova Scotia. The funding was used to hire on two full-time staff members to supervise the shelter in the early morning hours. Volunteers were called upon to help out late at night and in the morning.

“The volunteer numbers always fluctuate because some move away or are unable to continue and new ones come in,” he said. “We probably have about 20 to 25 volunteers for the shelter. The breakfast program has a separate group of five to six volunteers.”

The LifeShelter was open through the holidays including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. While Hazzard said it was tricky to get volunteers, they didn’t disappoint.

“You’d be surprised how willing the staff is to step up. We’re very fortunate. The breakfast program landed on Christmas Day and that morning, we had staff here at 7:30 a.m. because they wouldn’t miss it.”

The generosity of strangers is also a big part of the shelter’s fundraising efforts. The second annual Coldest Night of the Year event is the biggest financial support.

“We almost did as well as our first year and still brought in $14,000 for the shelter,” said Hazzard. “We’ll go back and review it because we want to see that grow.”

He noted the support of the United Way of Pictou County has been a big help to the LifeShelter’s operations as well.

Hazzard isn’t resting on his laurels and is looking cautiously toward the next season. He worries there may not be enough funding to have three full-time staff members since the JPC was a one-time arrangement.

“We’d love to hire three staff next year but it will be a challenge getting that level of funding for this fall,” he said. “It was night-and-day difference having the staff present. I don’t think we could go back to rallying up volunteers because it took so much pressure off the scheduler and planners.”

Looking at what the LifeShelter has accomplished in its second full season, Hazzard said he’s surprised at how much need there is for the shelter in New Glasgow.

“I don’t know what expectations we had for a town in rural eastern Nova Scotia. But there were a couple nights we had five people staying with us, virtually half full.”

Just before opening last November, the shelter had some renovations to help insulate the sleeping areas with materials donated by Central Home Improvement and work performed by the local Lions Club.

When the shelter was in the concept stages, many told Hazzard there weren’t any homeless people here. But he’s confident in the shelter’s role in New Glasgow.

“If we can keep doing what were doing, I’d be ecstatic.”

 

john.brannen@ngnews.ca

On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn 

Organizations: Employment Nova Scotia, United Way, Lions Club

Geographic location: New Glasgow, Pictou County, Eastern Nova Scotia

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