Warren Wesson rarely stops moving.
The 52-year-old founder and board member of the newly formed Dartmouth Shelter Society waves an arm to take in the natural light, sturdy walls, and long kitchen as he walks through the church hall that will soon be Dartmouth’s first-ever emergency overnight shelter.
There’s still some floor painting, funding meetings, volunteer organizing and beds to bring in, but Wesson said Tuesday that, after about a year in the making, the free co-ed overnight shelter in the SonLife Community Church on Windmill Rd. will open very soon.
Wesson, an affordable housing advocate and former business owner, is also someone who has used the shelter system. He said he’s also dealt with addiction, having used IV drugs for a long time until about nine years ago.
“Mental illness and drug addiction is my life. Not part of my life, my whole life,” Wesson said, his hands clasped while seated backwards in a chair.
“I got 52 years in on this. I’ve seen what can happen, I’ve seen (the) system fail and kill people … I will bring my lived experience and my energy and I will make a difference.”
Although Wesson said he knows there are people who respect credentials and “paperwork” over lived experience, the shelter society is bringing together all kinds of community members, fellow non-profits, and politicians at municipal, provincial and federal levels for a mix of many perspectives.
Wesson said the overnight shelter is very important, but mostly there to allow staff to access the “human in the bed” — then they can work with them to find out what their individual issues are, connect them to any services, and help them get there.