Community event for homeless attracts large crowd

By Lynn Gilbert

Almost 500 people participated in the second annual Under One Umbrella community event for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

The event, held on Saturday, Nov. 7, was hosted by a partnership of community based groups and organizations representing the health, social services, municipal and community support and advocacy sectors. In addition, more than 100 people volunteered to help with the event

 “The goal of Under One Umbrella is to give people in need a chance to access support services on one day, all under one roof,” said Janet Bickerton, a member of the community partnership and a health promoter with Nova Scotia Health Authority Public Health Services.

“The people who came were able get help and services that they would normally have trouble accessing. The turnout was exceptional. The number of people we were able to help more than doubled from last year.”

Agencies and service providers donated their time and resources. The services people had access to included: hot catered meals; haircuts; a doctor or nurse; chiropractor; dentist or optometrist; foot care; a massage; immunization; and hearing and vision assessments.

Free clothing, with a focus on winter wear, was available. As well, various community services that provide support and information about mental health and addictions, housing, legal aid advice and employment information had representatives meeting with participants.  Each person was also given a “comfort kit” containing basic personal supplies.

Under One Umbrella also gave participant James Dennis a chance to make a number of connections during the day. 

“If the struggle is real, there is real help out there if you’re willing to ask for it,” said Dennis.  He was able to connect with various service providers to look at things such ashousing, health, jobs, identification, dental care, and opportunities for education upgrading.

“The partnership between the Nova Scotia Health Authority, various community agencies and businesses is key to our event’s success,” says Lisa MacDougall, executive director, HEAL Cape Breton. “This is a community driven project. Our common goal is to make a positive contribution to the lives of those who attend and to also let them know that we care about them and their personal situation.”