Kentville's Open Arms Ministry stunned by cease occupancy order

Nancy Kelly nkelly@kingscountynews.ca
Published on July 22, 2014

Kings County has demonstrated a “complete disregard” for the people served by the Open Arms Ministry in Kentville by issuing a cease occupation order at its downtown location, says Pastor John Andrew.

On July 21, an order, signed by Kings County’s building inspector, was posted on the door of Open Arms' location in downtown Kentville. It calls for the public to “take notice that all persons are hereby to immediately cease occupancy" for the duration of renovations to the building. 

The Town of Kentville contracts building inspection services to Kings County.  

It further states that anyone who contravenes the order or removes the notice could be subject to fines or prosecution.

Open Arms was aware that renovations were scheduled and that they needed to move out during that time, but work had not started yet. 

The posted order came as a complete surprise to Andrew, who co-ordinates the charity, which helps meet the needs of those who find themselves without housing or are hungry or lonely. It helps people secure emergency shelter and necessities of life and provides access to health and social services, assessment and training and employment assistance.

“Nothing of this was mentioned when the same inspector visited our building on Monday,” explained Andrew, who has since contacted a Kings County councillor to seek clarification on the order.

Andrew said the same inspector recently informed Open Arms staff the front offices and bread collection areas could be kept open until construction began. He added that staff had previously dealt with calls about loitering by closing up the nearby alley where people had been congregating and smoking.

Andrew said a call, and not a posted order to cease occupancy, would have sufficed.

“The notice was unnecessary and created undo anxiety and confusion  for participants and for the community at large,” pointed out Andrew.

People standing outside Open Arms July 22 said they were confused and uncertain about what had happened.

Andrew said he hopes the renovation will be done in the near future but recognizes projects of this nature can take a while “to get rolling.”  

The charity had yet to secure an alternate location for the duration of its renovation phase when the order was posted.

In the immediate future, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church has offered space to Open Arms to use three mornings a week for the remainder of the summer.