- QNetNews.ca - http://www.qnetnews.ca -

Drop-in centre Nightlight forced to move

By Rachel Bell [1]


Outside of the old Nightlight location in Belleville. Photo by Rachel Bell, QNet News

BELLEVILLE – Nightlight [2]  is looking for a new home.

The local charity has recently been forced to move locations, as its old location, 228 Front St [3]., is being turned into Lafferty’s, a men’s clothing store.

The organization is a drop-in centre, open three days a week, that embraces anyone in Belleville with open arms. It offers a safe place to keep warm and mingle with others in the community from 6:30pm- 9:30pm.

It is however, so much more than its weekly meetings according to its executive director.  Mollie Sitwell believes it makes Belleville residents better people.

“It actually makes for better citizens of Belleville, because people are developing compassion and concern outside of themselves to help others.”

The organization looks to bring people together and build meaningful relationships by creating an atmosphere where everyone feels safe and comfortable. Sitwell says she has developed close friendships with many Nightlight visitors.

She sites the example of a deaf young man who was orphaned at age eleven, and has mental health and addiction issues. He was living in a tent until the first week of November in downtown Belleville by the police station and train tracks.

“We had been his friend for a long time but we just didn’t know he was living in a tent and somehow it came to our attention,” said Sitwell.

The members of Nightlight felt compassion for the man, and knew they had to do everything they could to help him. They worked tirelessly to get him a place, and he is now in an apartment in Belleville.

“It costs more than what his Ontario Disability Support Program  [6]check is, we don’t care. Our organization is helping to make sure he can be in a safe place and has an allowance.” Sitwell said.

Sitwell said she knows without a doubt that if her volunteers had not stepped up and fought for him, made countless phone calls, visits and given their time and energy, his life wouldn’t have changed.

She says that is only one example of how Nightlight helps people in the community who are struggling.

“We have bought teeth, bicycles, clothing, furniture, we’ve found apartments, gone to doctor appointments, to funerals, weddings, you name it, we’ve done it, because that’s what a relationship is about,” she said.

Sitwell says the organization is in desperate need of a new building so they can continue their passion of helping people.

They have been on a search since March, and are currently holding meetings in the basement of Victoria Avenue Baptist Church [7].

“It’s a lovely space, but it isn’t home,” said Sitwell.

The organization discovered that a normal commercial space is not suitable, and getting the kind of zoning they need is not easy, in part because of the large numbers of people showing up to each meeting.

Sitwell is currently working on three separate locations as possible new homes. The building has to be downtown within walking distance of the bus station and be easy to stumble upon.

She has her reasons for all her hard work and dedication to Nightlight Belleville.

“They’re my family, my people,” she said.

The organization has had 6,500 guests so far this year, up 25% from 2015. They average forty-five guests each meeting.