Goals to build more affordable housing – or, in Bancroft’s case, to get permanent warming centres and shelters running – shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s become, literally, a matter of life and death.
That, from North Hastings Community Trust Executive Director Jane Kali. The Trust worked quickly to open an overnight shelter last week, knowing that the cold was putting people’s lives at risk.
“The first night we were open, three people were brought in because they were found passed out outside,” she says. “The first night we opened, it was -40C. If those folks hadn’t been brought in, they would likely have frozen to death.”
Kali says, a week in, the Community Trust shelter has been hosting about 10 people each night.
She says she’s grateful for groups that are donating resources to keep it going. But she said the high demand should be a wake up call for governments to address housing and homelessness issues – and fast.
“Yes, they are asleep at the wheel here,” she says, frankly. “Yes. All levels of government have been negligent.
“Every night we worry about people. We have to do this. It should have been done years ago. We’re heartbroken and we’re close up to it. We really care about and love the people who come here and need a place to stay.
“All of us are sleeping a little bit better knowing people are out of the cold, absolutely. But I wake up heart broken every morning, because it’s not enough and it’s a band-aid.”
She says another problem in the town is that many people don’t have a place to go between 4 p.m. and when the shelter opens at 9 p.m. She hopes to see a solution to that.