Gander group calls for emergency shelter in region to deal with hidden homelessness

An advocacy group in Gander is calling for an emergency homeless shelter for the region.   (Rodney Barney/Twitter - image credit)
An advocacy group in Gander is calling for an emergency homeless shelter for the region. (Rodney Barney/Twitter - image credit)
Rodney Barney/Twitter
Rodney Barney/Twitter

A Gander housing advocate says homelessness is more hidden in central Newfoundland than in places like St. John's or Happy Valley-Goose Bay but is in just as much need of solutions.

Kimberley Beers, chair of Gander's Housing and Homelessness Network since October, says precarious living looks different in her community than it does in other areas. Rather than people visibly living on the street, "hidden" homelessness refers to someone who doesn't have a home but temporarily stays with family, friends and others, often frequently moving from place to place.

"People can be going from house to house — maybe they have a friend that they can stay with at their house for a day or two or maybe a week, but really they don't have a permanent place to call their own," Beers said Monday.

"We may not see the panhandlers or the same in the more obvious places [of the province] but we certainly do have the issue here in our region."

The organization, which has been around since 2011, successfully pushed to get a housing support worker, somebody who could help point people in need to the proper resources, appointed to the region in 2017, which helped lessen the advocacy group's workload. But the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down their work, said Beers, and magnified the problem.

Hotels not ideal solution

The group's newest priority is to get an emergency shelter established in Gander, she said.

"It's not only around finding places for people who are couch surfing or being placed in hotels or being sent out of our region to a shelter," said Beers.

"It would be to find a place where we can have an actual emergency shelter here in our region."

She said hotels aren't ideal, because if Gander is hosting a conference, rooms are booked up quickly, taking away their availability of emergency shelter. In that case, people who need shelter are sometimes sent to St. John's.

Beers said there also needs to be more affordable housing.

"We don't want them to be staying in an emergency shelter for a long time, of course," she said.

"Part of helping with housing is not only just dealing with the actual roof over your head. We need to have collaboration with our organizations and people around the table."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador