New shelters for former inmates open in Halifax

Leisha Seymour, executive director of the John Howard Society of Nova Scotia, said the men are

Leisha Seymour, executive director of the John Howard Society of Nova Scotia, said the men are “really excited” to be moving into their new home. (David Laughlin/CBC – photo credit)

A new supportive housing company in Halifax, designed to help men transition from the criminal justice system to community life, welcomed its first residents Monday.

Operated by the John Howard Society, Tamarack House is the second of its kind in the province and can sleep up to 12 men.

Unlike a transition home, the home uses a self-referral program so men who are out of prison, are on remand, or are at risk of homelessness can live there.

“The key component is that someone is at a point in their life where they are ready to make a change,” said Leisha Seymour, executive director of the John Howard Society. “We are very confident that we can give many people a fresh start.”

Seymour said Tamarack House will be staffed 24 hours a day and will provide extensive services and support to help the men succeed.

She said many people involved in the criminal justice system experienced trauma in their early childhood, have mental health and addiction problems, or other untreated health problems.

“These needs cannot be adequately met in our criminal justice system. That’s not what this system is for,” Seymour said. “To be able to give people a place in the community where they can access that sense of belonging… I think that can be really transformative for people.”

David Laughlin/CBC

David Laughlin/CBC

Seymour said following the success of the first supportive housing venture called Berma’s Place in Pictou, the John Howard Society secured a mortgage from the Department for Communities and Housing and operational funding from the Department for Community Services to make Tamarack House a reality.

They bought the home in Halifax’s South End in August and have been renovating it ever since.

“This is her home”

James Cameron, Tamarack House’s housing manager, said the new residents helped put the finishing touches on the house and they will help with day-to-day operations.

“This is their home and basically they will live here as if it were their home,” Cameron said.

He said this means the men will work together on things like cooking, cleaning, budgeting and grocery shopping.

Cameron said they also pay rent based on their income, are learning how to be responsible tenants and neighbors, and are working towards finding their own apartment to rent.

David Laughlin/CBC

David Laughlin/CBC

The plan is for residents to stay in the home for six months to a year while receiving internal and community support.

Arlea Walsh, the head of the John Howard Society’s provincial housing support team, said that with the province’s housing crisis, finding an affordable, safe home can be difficult.

“On average, it takes at least six to nine months to find the right housing resources and housing placements,” Walsh said.

She said many organizations have campaigned for more affordable housing in Halifax and beyond, but until then they will continue to fill the void.

“We don’t push people out the door,” Walsh said. “We really want people to come in and make this their home and realize it’s going to be a challenge. There is work that needs to be done and we can help them with it.”



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