We can all join the fight against homelessness

There has been a lot of talk recently about homelessness in Nova Scotia.

We’ve made progress, with new shelter services available in Bridgewater (Inn Out of the Cold) and Annapolis Valley (Open Arms Ministry) to help get those without permanent homes out of the cold this winter.

We are making inroads by helping make some health care services increasingly accessible, with the North End Community Health Centre launching their mobile vehicle. But we still have a long way to go.

Last year there were nearly 1,200 homeless individuals in HRM.

It may feel like the solution is out of the hands of the average Nova Scotian, but is it? What can we do to help these individuals get on their feet and become an engaged member of our community?

Become Educated: When you think of homeless individuals, most people think of those they see living on the streets.

But there are also those who are “at-risk.” These individuals usually live in substandard, or unsafe housing and are spending a large portion of their income on being able to keep this housing. There are individuals who have lost their homes and may have taken up couch surfing or doubling up with friends and family. As well as those that live in shelters.

Be Understanding: Respect them — they are human beings too. Make eye contact, engage them in conversation and respond with kindness.

Give Back: Donations don’t have to take the form of money; they can be gift certificates to grocery stores and restaurants, food, recyclables and clothing.

Volunteer: Shelters, soup kitchens and various groups within the city providing services to homeless individuals are always looking for extra hands. Lend your talents, tutor children, sit with someone learning how to read, provide job skills training, or simply engage in conversation with individuals using these services.

Advocate: Bring your concerns to the attention of your local, provincial and federal government officials, ask your community for help, employee the homeless, and stand up for the civil rights of all Nova Scotians. ­

Christina Biluk is a member of FUSION Halifax. Visit fusionhalifax.ca to find out how you can get involved to help make Halifax a better place to live, work and play.

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