“If you don’t have safe shelter, you don’t have anything,” said Nancy O’Regan, co-chair with Sheila Pelly of the recently formed Guysborough County Housing Network.
This sentiment, while always true, has been reinforced in recent months as COVID-19 made home the safest place to be. Unfortunately, many individuals and families in Guysborough County live in inadequate housing. That’s a problem that existed before the global pandemic highlighted the importance of home, health and safety.
Approximately a year-and-a-half ago, O’Regan and Pelly came together, “to try to identify what our housing needs are and to build some kind of plan to address housing issues and priorities.”
This led to the development of the Guysborough County Housing Network, which holds monthly meetings with stakeholder groups such as municipal units, the Town of Mulgrave, Municipality of the District of Guysborough, Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s; service providers such as Home Support, Career Works, Department of Community Services; and non-profits such as the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and the Roof Over Your Head housing program.
It’s still early days for the network and COVID hasn’t helped facilitate the launch of any new strategies or plans.
“We know we have some issues around housing,” said O’Regan, adding, “especially around COVID, that made us more aware of it. COVID really brought forward a lot of inequalities.”
She said they are “doing a study now to see what our affordable housing units look like and what the wait-lists are.”
O’Regan said it has always been assumed that there would be issues around housing in Guysborough County due to the aging demographic. While there are long-term care homes and a few seniors’ apartment complexes, “We really don’t have anything for seniors who are independent … but need more support,” she said, adding that low-income housing for families was also an issue.
Partnering with the StFX Extension Department and a professor from Cape Breton University, the network is investigating housing stock in the county and looking to population trends to determine future needs.
“We hope to have some community consultations across the county, when possible, about what people are seeing in their individual communities and what they feel the housing needs are. Out of that we’ll have a strategy to work with municipalities and do advocacy with the province,” said O’Regan.
Anyone interested in volunteering with the network can contact O’Regan at email@example.com.