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A time of need: Helping the vulnerable in Kings County following Dorian

Although the operations of Open Arms in Kentville were impacted by post-tropical storm Dorian, the organization continued working to help vulnerable people through a difficult situation.
Although the operations of Open Arms in Kentville were impacted by post-tropical storm Dorian, the organization continued working to help vulnerable people through a difficult situation. - Kirk Starratt

Assistance from Open Arms, safety co-ordinator helps seniors

KENTVILLE, N.S. —

When a major weather event like post-tropical storm Dorian hits, it’s important to consider the impact on vulnerable members of society.

Open Arms community navigator co-ordinator Vickie Campbell said the overnight shelter currently isn’t open but there is a lot of “couch surfing” going on with the weather getting colder at nights, for example.

“We do have those homeless individuals but I am not aware of any that were on the street during the storm,” Campbell said.

They did experience a few more people coming into their Kentville location for coffee, breakfast or to grab a shower before work as a result of Dorian. Some aren’t necessarily homeless but had no power. Others brought food in to place in the freezer.

“It’s very difficult when you’re on a limited income and you lose the food out of your fridge,” Campbell said.

Open Arms offered breakfast on the morning of Sept. 7 before the storm hit. However, the usual hot meal on Saturday evening was cancelled because of safety concerns and clients had to go without. Open Arms had a food donation come in because of a cancelled golf tournament, so they were able to offer supper on Monday evening, Sept. 9.

Open Arms had to go without its regularly scheduled egg delivery because of persisting power outages and they didn’t receive the usual donations of bread. On Sept. 10, they offered donated chicken for breakfast. Campbell expected that things would be back to normal once power is restored everywhere.

Although it isn’t related to the storm, she said they are experiencing a seasonal housing shortage.

“We do have a great need right now for placing people in safe housing,” Campbell said. “With our influx of students - which is wonderful - there’s not a lot of places for people to live right now.”

HELPING SENIORS

Kings County seniors’ safety co-ordinator Michelle Parker said that when we have a major weather event like Dorian, there are many things seniors can do to prepare and there are many things we can do to help seniors.

Seniors can reach out to family members to make sure they have contacts and a plan in case something should go wrong, such as a power outage or being unable to get out of their home. They can let people know where they are going to be during the storm and let them know about any health concerns that may exist so that they can begin to formulate a plan around any support services they may need.

“They can also make sure that they have all of their prescriptions renewed, that they have enough supply for at least 72 hours,” Parker said.

She said it’s a good idea for seniors to have a list of medications they need in case they have to leave their home quickly. It’s also good planning to have a three-day supply of drinking water and non-perishable food on hand.

Parker said they always encourage people to check on vulnerable members of our communities, such as seniors, who may need extra support should the power go out. They may need help carrying water or moving tree branches, for example.

She said the Kings County seniors’ safety program isn’t an emergency service but it can be a great resource the day following a storm. She has had some calls from family members who weren’t able to reach people because of downed phone and power lines asking her to check in on seniors to make sure they’re okay.

Parker said seniors’ safety co-ordinators try to make themselves aware of all community services that are available. Considering the power outages, she has been contacting vulnerable clients who are in various unique situations to let them know where to find community comfort centres.

Parker can be reached through the Wolfville RCMP detachment at 902-542-3817. She points out that seniors’ safety co-ordinators in other areas of the province can also be reached through local police detachments.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

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