With winter around the corner and hundreds of people sleeping in tents around Halifax, more citizens are stepping up to help.
Stephen Wilsack said he was compelled to do something last week after working around the corner from the encampment at Grand Parade outside Halifax's city hall, where there are currently about two dozen tents.
"I was devastated seeing the amount of unhoused people that are here. I love Nova Scotia, I love our province and I think we're at a crisis right now," Wilsack said.
"So, I just want to be a catalyst to say, 'Let's try to fix this collectively, together.'"
Wilsack partnered with his friend, Matthew Grant, to launch a project they've dubbed Sleep On It. They're handing out mattress pads, sheets, rain gear and other supplies at encampments around the municipality.
Grant covered mattress pads with garbage bags, to provide some waterproofing, before handing them out. (Taryn Grant/CBC)
David Pincock gladly accepted some of the supplies, as well as some of the hot coffee they were offering on Saturday morning.
Pincock said assistance from generous strangers has been the most significant help he's received since he started living in a tent earlier this year.
Citizen support making a big difference
"If it wasn't for them, we'd be in a lot worse shape than we are," said Pincock.
"With the mattresses and stuff, it's keeping us off the cold ground. The ground is what's gonna get us. People are gonna start dying of exposure if they stay on the ground."
David Pincock is living in a tent at Grand Parade in downtown Halifax. He says generous strangers regularly bring food, clothes and other supplies. (Taryn Grant/CBC)
Pincock said he thinks politicians are turning a blind eye to him and the other people living in the encampments. But he regularly gets help from individuals that stop by with food and clothes.
Wilsack and Grant are not alone in taking initiative to respond to the homelessness crisis. A community group in Lower Sackville recently formed to support the people living in tents in a field on Cobequid Road.
Volunteers with that group have been bringing hot meals, heaters and other supplies to the encampment, and helping people search for housing and connect with medical care.
Wilsack said the grassroots response to homelessness shows that people are paying attention to the seriousness of the situation.
"The government can't fix everything. They're there to help, but it takes time, it takes funding, it takes months and months of action," he said.
"I've never seen anything like this in my lifetime. I've lived here all my life and this is a serious, serious matter and we have to come together collectively as a community to figure out how to make this work."
'We want to be here for moral support'
Wilsack and Grant set up a tent of their own in Grand Parade on Saturday with the intention of staying overnight. They were well aware of the heavy rain and strong winds in the forecast.
"We want to be here for moral support," Wilsack said.
"We also want to make awareness of what it's really like to be inside of a tent during a rainstorm. We've all camped. In my early childhood, I remember camping in rainstorms, but this is different … it's not a lot of fun."
Wilsack said he plans to continue handing out supplies as long as there is need.
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