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Pictou County's temporary homeless shelter needs more support

Donna Cooper, left, and Ellen Margeson, both committee volunteers with the First Baptist Temporary Homeless Shelter, look over schedules and their volunteer list.
Donna Cooper, left, and Ellen Margeson, both committee volunteers with the First Baptist Temporary Homeless Shelter, look over schedules and their volunteer list.

Don't let the word temporary fool you.

The First Baptist Temporary Homeless Shelter is as committed as any permanent shelter to providing a warm bed and a meal to people in need.

It just needs more volunteers to do it.

Donna Cooper, chair and communications co-ordinator for the shelter committee, said when the need was there to provide a shelter after the Life Shelter closed, First Baptist United Church stepped up.

It has been opening its temporary shelter one night a week, Wednesdays, since July, but it needs more support from the community to keep it running.

“We are open one night a week and we are have such a demand for volunteers sometimes we have to close for that one night a week,” she said. “The other thing is that we recognize is that it is getting colder and they will need to come inside and there is a need.”

Cooper said the committee decided that if it could build up its volunteer base, it would consider opening more often. There are two shifts an evening and two people on each shift. The shift times run from 9:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The first shift involves bringing the clients in and providing them with a meal and monitoring until the second shift is one duty. Its responsibilities include monitoring until breakfast is served after which the shelter is closed.

There is also a set-up time associated with the first shift that takes about a half-hour and includes putting the beds out. Men and women are housed in separate areas with separate washrooms for nine people total. There is a security camera on site and the shelter has a good partnership with the New Glasgow Regional Police. 
“We would like to go seven days a week because homeless are homeless seven days a week,” said Ellen Margeson, the committee’s volunteer co-ordinator.

The committee recently put a plea out to the community and names are slowly starting to come in, but the weather is also getting colder so the demand for its services is expected to increase.

“We can be very flexible with volunteers,” said Margeson. “The reason we are opening so late is because this facility is used for other things.”

The temporary shelter is not to be confused with the work being done by a Pictou County committee focused on purchasing the former Life Shelter and opening the permanent shelter under the name, Viola’s Place Society.

The First Baptist committee will be putting a sign out in front of the church letting people know when it is open and that volunteers are needed. A recent internet post calling for volunteers captured the attention of about 16 people willing to be trained for the position so they feel there is interest out there.

Cooper said it is also a good way to get people involved and build up a base so that when Viola’s Place Society does open, it will have trained volunteers who might be willing to work at its shelter.

Anyone willing to volunteer at First Baptist’s temporary homeless shelter is asked to contact Ellen Margeson at ellemarge@seasidehighspeed.com  Volunteers must be 19 years of age or older.

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