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‘We need action’: MLA brings Shelburne homelessness concerns to NS legislature

Senior Safety Coordinator Kim Masland received some serious praise from the Region of Queens Municipality recently.
Senior Safety Coordinator Kim Masland received some serious praise from the Region of Queens Municipality recently.

The Queens-Shelburne MLA is taking the problem of homelessness in the area to the legislature.

On Sept. 28, Kim Masland stood up in the legislature and asked the Community Services Minister Kelly Regan about issues around homelessness in Shelburne County.

It's an issue Masland has some first-hand experience with; as the previous senior safety co-ordinator for Shelburne, Masland has seen the problems that Shawna Symonds, who currently holds the position, is facing.

"I was shocked to find how few had access to affordable and accessible homes," Masland said.

She tells the story of one man in a wheelchair who lost his home to foreclosure. It got to the point, Masland said, where he was sitting at the end of his driveway in the snow. No help - or housing - was available for him.

Eventually, a place was found for him to stay, but Masland says more services need to be put in place.

"We are just not doing enough," she says.

Symonds shed light on the issue in September, saying there are at least 10 homeless men living in the Shelburne area. While it's not technically part of her job to help people who are homeless find homes, it's fallen on her shoulders due to a lack of services in the area, particularly for single men between the ages of 20 and 58. This demographic isn't covered by services that run women or youth shelters and subsidized housing for families.


In the legislature

On Sept. 28, the Conservative MLA questioned the McNeil government about what would be done about issues around homelessness in Shelburne County.

"This senior safety coordinator (Symonds) states one of her biggest challenges is that the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services has no outreach workers in Shelburne County to help with homelessness," she said.  "While Shelburne has many resources, there are no facilities, shelters or organizations that focus on homeless men."

Masland asked the minister what her plans were to address the issue.

Regan responded that the Western Region Housing Authority has been working closely with the other members of the Shelburne and Area Housing Coalition to identify challenges and solutions.

"I do want to let her (Symonds) know that if she's aware of cases where people are not being appropriately housed, we would like to know where they are," said Regan, according to a transcription of the legislative session.

But, says Masland, senior safety coordinators - whose job it is to work with seniors - should not be doing the work that is meant for Community Services.

Regan said Sept. 28 that while the province was able to invest $75 million in affordable housing, the issue of single men who are homeless are yet to be addressed in rural areas.

"There is no doubt there is a shift in our caseload," says Regan.

She says the province is moving to ensure there are more units for single adults.

"When we come across situations like this we need to make sure the stories are shared," Masland said in a follow-up interview.  "The conversation has started and it's important it keeps going.  Not enough is being done…we need results…we need action."



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