Task force recruit warming centre staff, works on future housing projects

St. Stephen's Unsheltered Population Working Group is hiring staff for the upcoming warming centre, parallel to working towards getting the facility running, as well as solving future housing needs of the town's homeless population.

Tanner Stewart, a St. Stephen resident who serves on the committee, said they are looking for an operations manager for the warming centre, along with seven support workers covering day and night shifts. Stewart said these will be hourly positions with "at least five months' worth of employment."

He said many of them will be temporary, but "perhaps some of those jobs might turn into longer term positions depending on what happens over the next five months," adding that the new hires will receive training support from other operating warming centres in the province that the committee is working with.

Stewart could not confirm the final location, the date of inauguration or the funding received, but he said that the intended hours of operation for the centre are 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily and the reason they're hiring is the need for adequate support. He added that work is still ongoing in every area of the project.

"The main goal here is to get this warming centre opened as quickly as possible to make sure that St. Stephen residents who need shelter from the cold can have some shelter and then the goal is to re-house as many of these people as can possibly be re-housed."

"All hands are on deck to open this thing as quickly as possible because winter is here," said Stewart calling the situation "a win-win," as it brings jobs to the community of St. Stephen and also serves the homeless population.

Coun. Vic Thiessen, who was behind the formation of the working group, said the committee is constantly working towards its goals and has been divided into three teams to split work.

He said the community and social response team is working towards the goal of providing temporary housing to a few unsheltered individuals and also towards developing future supportive and transitional housing in the second phase.

"There are various types of future housing projects being discussed."

According to him, the warming centre operations team will oversee the process of running the centre and a fundraising team will be looking after the Chase the Ace fundraiser.

At a previous council meeting, the Town of St.Stephen agreed to receive donations on behalf of the unsheltered population working group, awaiting the town CAO’s final draft of terms for the fundraising program, according to the Telegraph-Journal archives, the town council was told that the anti-homelessness task force is participating in a local Chase the Ace fundraiser and was short of time to establish themselves as a registered charity for collecting donations.

Thiessen previously told the newspaper that the group was invited to participate and could raise a “significant amount” of money for its projects.

In a recent interview Thiessen also confirmed that the working group now has a volunteer communications and social media person and one of their member organizations - The John Howard Society - has already hired an outreach worker to work closely with the homeless population, whom Thiessen has seen working for about two weeks now.

"I was very impressed ... I saw her walking with five unsheltered people to the store, and they were laughing, and it looked like a really positive experience."

"I am very hopeful that this will be an exciting new step for the Town of St. Stephen to have this outreach worker in place."

Applications for the warming centre manager position closed on Friday afternoon and the deadline for the support worker position is at noon on Nov. 24. Interested applicants can email jim.stuart@rogers.com.

Rhythm Rathi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal