By Sacha Anderson, Navigator Street Outreach Program Coordinator
“Spare any change? Have a great day,” can be heard daily on the sidewalk as folks bustle by. Occasionally, some stop briefly to place loose change in an empty coffee cup, giving a nod as they continue with their day.
With the weather starting to warm up, Haligonians once again venture out to enjoy all this city has to offer. However, for the Navigator Street Outreach Program (NSOP) it is business, as usual – all year around.
Not surprisingly, panhandling seems to be a hot topic during the initial months of warmer weather. With new social initiatives popping up, panhandling is sure to gain attention. Along with that increased attention, comes speculations and assumptions about what the city, province, and other groups are doing to address the complex issue of poverty here in Halifax.
In response, I’d would like to tell you about the Navigator Street Outreach Program (NSOP). NSOP is a social program that has been in place since 2007. The program’s aim is to support those who are precariously housed, homeless and/or street involved, to address barriers in accessing housing, education, employment, mental health supports, addictions treatment, social programs, and health care.
NSOP is jointly funded by the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, Spring Garden Area Business Association and Halifax Regional Municipality. The program works directly with community members, bringing services to the streets of Halifax, to break down barriers, and advocate alongside service users.
In the last year alone, NSOP has worked with 222 individuals, providing supports that range from assistance with obtaining identification, housing, employment, and emergency food – just to name a few of the services NSOP provides. It’s undeniable that each of these barriers are interconnected and most commonly tied to the larger structural and societal issue of poverty.
There is no silver-bullet solution to addressing the complexity of poverty and all that connects to its vast umbrella. When discussing such matters, we cannot take a singular approach, nor can we wear rose-colored glasses. While no one service, program, or initiative is going to “solve” these complex, interconnected societal and structural issues, each has the capacity to raise awareness and educate the larger community. The business community and municipality providing support to social programming, demonstrates a commitment to social responsibility as opposed to looking solely to provincial services.