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Campaign aims to raise money for a homeless shelter

By LaShaina Blair-White  [1]

BELLEVILLE –  If a local activist for the homeless has her way, the city of Belleville may have its own homeless shelter this fall.

Kelly Oribine, former executive director of Nightlight [2], a drop-in centre downtown, is starting a campaign to raise money for a 12-to-16-bed emergency shelter.

It would be named Grace Inn and would be a shelter for adults in downtown Belleville, with a specific focus on dignity, community and mentorship, she said.

The goal is to raise $10,000; the campaign [3] has raised $2,405 in nine days.

Oribine says her time at Nightlight showed her the urgency of this project.

“There were people that were in urgent housing crisis, people would be paying someone a $100 a month to sleep on their couch. If there was a break in the relationship, the person that owns the apartment can kick the person out and now they have nowhere to go.” 

She says $10,000 is not the final goal. “The $10,000 is going to help make whatever site we do get suitable for a shelter, adding beds, a washer and dryer, showers, lockers, whatever else is needed. I set the $10,000 as an initial goal. It’s nice to see us get closer (to the goal), but realistically it’s going to cost us about $60,000 a year to run the shelter.”

Building a shelter has been a dream for Oribine since she was 19 years old. It wasn’t until recently when she decided on the name.

“Grace means to receive something that you don’t necessarily deserve and we often (in conversations about poverty) get caught up on the deserving poor versus the undeserving poor. I think we can go beyond that, we can give everyone dignity and respect and not have them meet some standard we have set in our minds. Grace is to give freely and to love freely, whether or not people can meet our definition of in need.”

If she meets her goal, Oribine’s shelter would be the first in Belleville. Right now, the closest shelters are located in Peterborough and Kingston. Locally, the Belleville Public Library [4] and the Quinte Sport and Wellness Centre [5] offer warm places during the day. However, there are no places for homeless people to sleep at night.

Hastings Housing Resource Centre [6] helps provides temporary and immediate homes for people as young as 16 years old.

“At our office, last year we saw 1,500 people on a one-to-one basis and of those 1,500 people 99 per cent of them were either homeless or at risk of homelessness,” said Reta Sheppard, the organization’s housing coordinator.

Oribine hopes to complete her project by September of this year.

Not only are people donating, Oribine said many people are also providing resources and helping in any way possible, trying to make her dream a reality.