News / Halifax

'Often hidden:' Lower Sackville forum to tackle homelessness, hunger in suburbs

Community forum next week will bring local groups together to talk about ways to better address the issues.

Lower Sackville

Yvette d'Entremont/Metro Halifax

Lower Sackville

The hidden issues of homelessness and hunger in the Sackville and Beaver Bank area will be the focus of a community forum next week.

“Hunger and homelessness are realities in our community that are often hidden. We may associate them with the inner city and urban core. But they are all too real for our neighbours in Sackville, Beaver Bank and area,” notes the invitation for the Jan. 30 event.

“There are many painful stories that folks on the front line of care and service can tell us.  They can also tell us of the frustration with fragmented services, lack of knowledge of what is actually available, and the gaps that exist.”

Ross Bartlett was one of the community forum’s organizers.

“It’s the beginning of a conversation, and we believe that if we put people with the similar passions to care in the same room and spark the conversation, then only good things can result,” he said in an interview.

In addition to serving as pastor at Knox United Church on Sackville Drive, Barlett is secretary of the Sackville and area Rotary Club.

“I have been here in ministry for seven years, and one of the things I’ve discovered is that we have rather fewer services and resources than in the downtown core,” he said.

Before taking his post in Lower Sackville, Bartlett was a minister at St. Matthew’s in downtown Halifax.

“There, issues of homelessness and hunger are much more visible to the passing public. You see people panhandling on the street and sleeping on the street and so on,” he explained.

“I’ve learned over the years here that those realities are just as prevalent in Lower Sackville, but they’re more hidden.”

Bartlett said there are senior citizens in his community forced to choose between food and medication. He also pointed to complex housing issues, including more than one family living in cramped quarters to try and help each other make ends meet.

“We also know that many of our schools have food programs in order to help students be able to learn, and on and on the list goes,” he said.

“But in my experience there doesn’t seem to be much by way of coordinated response.”

Bartlett said when someone approaches him seeking shelter for the night, he must send them to Halifax.

“A couple of times a month I will have people looking for a place to stay, and the best I can do is give them a bus ticket and send them into the city to one of the shelters there because we have very little to respond,” he said.

“It would be good if we had those sorts of resources even on a limited basis here in Lower Sackville because the community is growing and becoming more diverse. Both resources and challenges are becoming more diverse along with it.”

The Jan. 30 forum will be kicked off by stories from three community agencies among the many working on issues of homelessness and hunger in the Sackville area. They include Beacon House food bank, the community health team and the Sackville Public Library.

More than 20 other local organizations, service clubs and churches have been invited to send representatives to attend and contribute to the conversation.

Any interested group that didn’t receive an invitation is also encouraged to attend.

“I do have a great deal of confidence in people being able to work together. For instance many years ago Beacon House formed by an association of churches to be a response to a particular need,” Bartlett said.

“So they saw a need and they responded to it and it continues to thrive and do important work. Who knows what else might come out of this.”

When to go: The Jan. 30 forum takes place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Knox United Church, 567 Sackville Dr.

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