A journey out of housing poverty shows the life-changing power of safe, secure housing
Housing poverty is a daily reality in Halifax — 20,000 households in HRM exist in a state of “deep” housing poverty. That means that all it might take is one unexpected setback — a lost job, an unanticipated major expense — to put them at immediate risk of homelessness, or otherwise falling backwards on the housing continuum.
Paul knows what it’s like to live that way.
One of 13 kids, he grew up in St. John’s before leaving home and travelling the country for work. He picked up whatever jobs he could find: “I’ve done just about everything. I worked on a fishing trawler in Halifax, construction in Toronto, drove a taxi in St. John’s.”
A few years ago, Paul was back in Halifax, where he’d lived 25 years before. After a lifetime of hard work, Paul had more or less left the workforce due to some chronic health issues. He was living in a shelter, searching for something more secure. A friend told him about an apartment operated by Welcome Housing & Support Services, a United Way–funded organization that provides long term, secure housing and support to people on low incomes. They believe everybody deserves a safe, comfortable home — and that’s just what Paul was looking for.
“I came to see it and I thought, ‘This is it. It’s perfect for me’,” says Paul. “It’s just a bachelor but it has its own little deck, a backyard, my own entrance. And it’s quiet.”
Paul has a chronic respiratory illness, and uses an electric scooter to get around. That means any apartment needs to be accessible, and the apartment he was sizing up was perfect. He dropped into Welcome Housing every day, for more than a week, to make sure they knew he was serious about the apartment. He got it, and he says, “They built me a shed right outside my door to store my scooter.”
On summer days, you’ll find Paul sitting on his front stoop, catching up with friends and neighbours, or travelling the city — by scooter. “I get on the scooter, I go down to the boardwalk with my coffee, and chat with people going by,” he says. Ice and snow make winter more of a challenge, but he has friends who drop by regularly and help him run errands.
Paul figures that now, he has everything he needs. “You need a roof over your head, you need to be able to get where you need to go, and you need a couple of friends,” he says. “I’ve got all that.”