CARBONEAR, NL — An increase in homelessness has resulted in a growing need for emergency funds for the Mariner Resource Opportunities Network Inc. in Carbonear.
MRON is a not-for-profit organization that oversees several programs for the Trinity-Conception area, ranging from youth employment services to housing support – a program that gets renewed on an annual basis and provides housing and shelter for those who need it.
In recent years, Carbonear and surrounding communities have seen a significant increase in people living without proper housing, or the bare necessities.
As a result, more people are utilising services offered by local food banks and programs such as MRON’s housing support.
Homelessness is not always cardboard box homes and empty change cups, or people sleeping on park benches, said Lynnette Collins, MRON’s housing support worker.
“Homelessness in this area is more along the lines of what they call ‘hidden homelessness,’” she said. “It’s not like you’re walking downtown and you’re seeing people asleep on the street, but homelessness could mean someone is couch surfing – staying at a friend’s house one night, and another the next night, or living in a tent in the woods.
“Those people don’t have proper housing, and everyone deserves a roof over their head. That’s what we’re here for.”
Although Collins works closely with local food banks, landlords and other such facilities, she noted to meet the needs of the growing homelessness problem in the area, there are still some things she and others working in the field would like to see – specifically, an emergency shelter, as well as accessible and affordable housing.
With many people dealing with low incomes, lack of affordable housing and the rising costs of living have resulted in a low vacancy rate of low income rentals.
“Accessible housing is, basically, a home that can be accessed by people with mobility issues, and it’s hard to find a place around here with no steps, or wider walls,” said Collins. “So, if someone comes to me with mobility issues who needs help with housing, unfortunately, they may be waiting.
“Likewise, if someone comes to me and needs somewhere to go immediately, in an emergency, there’s no emergency shelter in this area, so they’re going to have to be transported to St. John’s, which only adds more unnecessary stress and complication to their situation.”
Hope for change
Although these problems cannot be solved immediately, MRON hopes to see some changes soon with the addition of emergency funds for clients in desperate need.
These funds will come from the upcoming pancake breakfast in support of housing and homelessness initiatives at the Carbonear Legion on Tuesday, Feb 13, starting at 7 a.m.
Lorraine Brown, executive director of MRON spoke about the importance of the organization’s 14th annual breakfast fundraisers, which take place throughout the province on Shrove Tuesday.
“This one that we’re hosting here in Carbonear will be raising emergency funds that (Collins) can use in her position as a housing support worker,” Brown explained. “Oftentimes she will get a client come in that might not even have a pair of gloves on their hands or any money to even buy a pair, and this person might be walking half an hour to get here, or to go get groceries. If she sees a need that she can meet by having some funds on hand, then she can get permission to go and spend it on things like that.
“This is why we’re doing this breakfast – we see a need, and we feel that by having this emergency fund, we can help remedy these issues a lot easier.”
Collins’ position as a housing support worker goes beyond simply providing people with a roof over their head. Although her clients do not fall under any specific demographic regarding age or gender, she did note that complex needs, such as mental health issues or struggles with addiction, are often prevalent factors. She told the Compass that once proper housing is provided, she wants to make sure they stay housed, and routinely checks up with them.
“Because of the complexity of some clients, (Collins) could be an entire week sorting out proper housing and other needs for one client, while another client may be housed within a day,” Brown said. “Because every client is different, and everyone is in a different situation, these emergency funds will really come in handy.”
Collins and Brown also hope the breakfast raises awareness of the homelessness issue in the area. Both agreed that because it can be difficult to pinpoint such a problem, many residents of Carbonear and surrounding communities are not fully aware of the growing issue.
“When you’re driving to St. John’s, you can see people on the corner of the lights with signs up asking for money or food, but you don’t see that here,” said Collins. “It’s hidden, and because it’s hidden, people don’t really realize that it’s an issue, but it is.”
Tuesday’s breakfast will be open to the public from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Although they are still working out some of the details, MRON hopes to include some live, local entertainment. Attendees can donate to the initiative, with a suggested donation of $5, and enjoy some pancakes and good company.
Anyone looking for more information on the event can call 596-6217.