Creating shelter for friends through community support

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Kelly Oribine says a hero is someone who "takes others' needs seriously and lives a life of integrity." Photo by Nikolai Karpinski, Hidden Heroes: Faces of Quinte.

BELLEVILLE – The vision for a homeless shelter in Belleville originated from compassion and friendship.

Kelly Oribine worked at a drop-in support centre in the city for two years. It was here she recognized the need for an overnight shelter.

"[At the centre] we closed at 9:30 at night. I'd have to watch these friends I'd made walk out into the cold with nowhere to go. When you have to do that you either grow cold to it and stop feeling or you act and do something. I had to act. I couldn't let my friends sleep out in the cold anymore," says Oribine.

In November 2015 Oribine says she asked a friend from church to help her create a homeless shelter in Belleville.

Almost two years later that vision has evolved into a community funded charity organization dedicated to building the Grace Inn Shelter.

The charity has been funded by the community, says Oribine. The group has raised nearly $5,300 through its gofundme page. Individuals have donated in other ways as well.

"We believe that the people of Belleville are more than ready to make a shelter happen," she says. "Individuals in the community are helping in big ways."

In order to keep the shelter sustainable, the group would rely on regular monthly donors and annual fundraising events says Oribine. The shelter would also require over 70 volunteers once it opens.

The group is currently looking for property to open up a 15 bed homeless shelter in the city.

Oribine says the process of making the shelter a reality has been a long one.

"It's tedious. I just want to jump in and start housing homeless people – that's where my heart is – but there's a lot of work to be done for an organization to be sustainable and we recognize that," says Oribine.

While the shelter would fill a definite need in the city, Oribine says 15 beds isn't enough.

"It won't even begin to address the need. It's a start. Those 15 beds will be filled fast," she says.

Oribine says her faith is a major motivator in helping the poor.

"I'm a Christian and I believe that caring for the poor is central to the gospel. There's 2,100 verses in our bible about caring for the poor and social justice issues. If we were to cut all those verses out of the bible, it would fall apart," she says.

Oribine also has personal experience being homeless when she was living in Ottawa and then Trenton as a youth.

"I know what it's like. I know the lack of dignity that you experience. It was a really depressing and dehumanizing way to live," she says. "I was lucky. I was only homeless for a short time – less than a year – but it was enough that it shaped my life and how I viewed the world."

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