New Salvation Army homeless shelters open
Two homeless shelters were officially opened yesterday after years of delays and promises.
The homes, located on Marsh Folly Road in Pembroke, were converted out of shipping containers and built in partnership with the Salvation Army, Ministry of Public Works and the Bermuda Housing Corporation.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, admitted: “To sum it up, a myriad of challenges were encountered over the course of the project that derived from Covid and global supply chain issues.”
But he added: “It is still a day of celebration – the work is done to an outstanding quality and raises the bar for the way we cater to those in need of shelter.
“I am particularly delighted that we have been able to deliver on our commitment to the Salvation Army and those in need.”
The housing project was part of a larger plan to refurbish many Salvation Army buildings.
It started in 2019 through a public-private partnership with the BHC, on behalf of the Government, and philanthropists Jim Butterfield and Kirk Kitson.
The Government agreed to match the funding the men raised to refurbish the shelters.
Refurbishment of two other residences and the shelter’s administrative building were completed in December 2020, but the container shelters were stalled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Colonel Burch said that the project went over budget as the price of steel was driven up dramatically.
He added that the project overall cost more than $1.79 million, with another $21,468.65 owed to contractors.
But Colonel Burch said: “Successive governments have not always supported the work of the Army, both financially and with repairs to this site.
“This government made a decision in 2019 to honour that commitment as the work of the Salvation Army helps our people.
“This commitment should and must transcend partisan politics – so I again publicly declare that we will continue to support the Salvation Army in this effort, and to put down the marker for future governments to do the same.”
The shelters, divided between men and women, are two storeys tall and each hold 14 people.
Each room will house one individual and comes with an individualised key for each room. The residences also come with showers and bathrooms on each floor.
Major Rob Kerr, the Salvation Army Divisional Commander, said that he was “elated” to see the shelters finally open up after much anticipation.
He added that the single-person rooms would add to the dignity of those staying.
Major Kerr said: “Folks are coming to us with many different challenges and many different experiences.
“They need to be in a safe place, they need to get stabilised, and a safe, clean space to live and sleep is going to help that happen.
“This is a big day towards the health and stability for a lot of Bermudians in the days to come.”
Beverley Daniels, the Salvation Army’s Director of Social Services, said the charity would receive donated furniture, such as beds and night tables, that they would use to furnish the residences in January.
She added that they wanted to add curtains and lamps to make the spaces more private and hospitable.
Ms Daniels said the shelters were open to anyone who fit their criteria after a vetting process and who was recommended by a case worker or through self-admission.
She said they anticipated filling up rooms by the end of January.
Ms Daniels said: “We’re not just offering a bed, we’re offering a case management programme whereby you come in, you set goals and we, working with you, help to bring about your transformation based on your needs.”
Tinee Furbert, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors, whose ministry also provides financial support to the Salvation Army, said that she was most proud of how accessible the home was for those in wheelchairs.
She said: “This demographic has a majority of Black males and people who are unwell.
“It could be something as simple as someone fell and broke their leg and they became homeless for some reason – now we have the ability to help them.”
Ms Furbert said there she had encountered several people who could not work because of accessibility problems and wound up on the street as a result.
She added that one man in particular could no longer pay for his nursing home care.
But Ms Furbert said: “With an alternative such as this, housing will not be as much of a cost for someone who is disabled.”
She added that it was “exciting” to finally see the project finished after three years.
Ms Furbert said: “I think that level of dignity and privacy, as well as an open for someone, is helpful in making a living situation feel more comfortable.
“It’s another option of housing for people, whether it’s permanent or transitional.”