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Local housing action coalition puts emphasis on shelter

 COUNTY - With the end of November fast approaching, Canadians are reminded of one of our common bonds - that another winter is on us, and that snow, ice and winds will once again be a way of life for all of us, at least for the next few months.

 Helen Lanthier, spokeswoman for the South Shore Housing Action Coalition (SSHAC), says most of us will find ways to celebrate the more pleasant days that winter brings.

 "We should be reminded, however, that National Housing Day [which was November 22] is a day that has been set aside since 1988 to bring attention to the sad fact that there are many Canadians who face challenging circumstances with the arrival of winter's cold. In a nation that identifies itself as having an abundance of space, natural resources and human potential, it is ironic that communities throughout our country - both urban and rural - continue to struggle to adequately meet the housing needs of all its citizens."

 Ms Lanthier says on the South Shore, there are too many who experience housing vulnerability - "those of us who are unable to afford to buy a house and who cannot find rental accommodations that are safe, healthy, affordable and accessible."

 According to Statistics Canada, 43 per cent of renter households in Lunenburg County, and 38 per cent in Queens County, spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing, placing them at increased risk for homelessness.

 "There are those who are trying to help," she says. "For example, Inn from the Cold is the area's emergency shelter program in Bridgewater. Co-ordinated between local churches, it relies, as so many good things in our community do, on the hearts and backs of volunteers."

 She says a local housing action coalition was formed over a year ago to examine ways in which communities can act directly, or advocate for a more effective response from government to address a shortage of safe, affordable housing in our communities.

 A discussion paper was put together by the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia ( earlier this year. It recognizes that co-ordination of programs requires the provincial government to create a co-ordinated housing strategy - something many Canadians believe needs to also be on the national agenda.

 The diversity of housing challenges that face our community - from homelessness, to health and safety issues, to accessibility - means that there is a degree of co-ordination necessary between the different levels of governments, the good work of many diverse social agencies and individual citizens who are oftentimes preoccupied with seeing to a number of personal issues. Safe and affordable housing needs can get lost, or are invisible to those who are not living with it day to day.

 Long-term policy changes are necessary. The South Shore Housing Action Coalition believes it can work on those issues. But with winter at the door, communities have to consider acting now to support those individuals who face the most immediate housing need.

 Contact Inn from the Cold at or the South Shore Housing Action Coalition at

posted on 11/23/11
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