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The Shelter Bus: re-purposing old coaches as a temporary homeless shelter

New concept would like to expand to cities like Guelph in the future

Old buses as temporary homless shelters is a new charitable endeavour that would like to see them spring up in cities across the country.

The Shelter Bus is a new concept, at least to Canada, that sees old coaches retrofitted so that they can be used as temporary mobile homeless shelters.

They can sleep 20 individuals, get people out of dangerous weather, offer them a hot meal and a homeless kit of supplies. There is WiFi and a place to store belongings.

It would be staffed by a driver, security guard and two trained volunteers.

The first bus is almost ready to spring into action and it made a pit stop in Guelph Saturday to raise awareness and hopefully funds for the new venture.

"I work in the transit industry and nine months ago I was looking at busses that are used up are usually sold for scrap metal. There are others options out there where you can convert them and have social good," said the man behind the project, Toronto's Naeem Farooqi.

"Any municipality has the infrastructure you need to support a project like this," Farooqi said. "This is an option where you can put it in at a night and it disappears in the morning. It doesn't create issues for neighbourhoods, it just provides safe, comfortable sleep for people that are homeless."

Several municipalities have expressed interest, Farroqi said, and it's main goal is for it to be run during the winter months, augmenting what shelter services that are already available. A short-term solution to homelessness.

The project is run by the charitable organization Humanity First.

It costs $96,000 to purchase and retrofit the buses, which have seen the end of their lives as far as passenger vehicles, but still have lots of life for other uses.

Operationally t costs another $30 per bed per night, plus $5 for the homeless kit.

Fundraising has brought in roughly half the cost of the first bus, Farooqi said.

"It is meant to provide a clean, safe shelter for anyone experiencing temporary homelessness, such as on cold winter nights when conventional shelters are full and lives are at stake," said Guelph's Sharon Nezny, who is involved with fundraising for the project along with her husband Denny Culbert and would love to eventually see one in Guelph.

"It can also be dispatched as needed for other humanitarian causes, such as fires, floods, or other natural disasters."

Nezny said there is no reason a Shelter Bus couldn't come to Guelph.

"We'd love to see it in Guelph. We know the need is here," she said.

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