Investing in an Ecosystem of Support for Formerly Incarcerated Persons in Nova Scotia
Sara Tessier
Oct 6, 2023

When Sara Tessier, our Impact Director for Formerly Incarcerated Persons came on board with Northpine, she brought valuable lived experience and firsthand knowledge. One of the first investments she chose to make was with Coverdale Justice Society and Caitlan’s Place – a community supportive housing program offering support services for women and gender-diverse individuals who are experiencing the criminal justice system and homelessness.

While Caitlan’s Place provided housing and on-site wrap-around support services, there was a need for an ecosystem of supports that extended beyond transitional housing, and helped clients find community.

This innovative aspect of the Northpine investment approach involved supporting the broader community rather than just one organization. This resulted in an ecosystem of organizations, including AHANS, Shelter Nova Scotia, Steppingstone, Black Power Hour, and MOSH. One year later, we checked in to see what impact these organizations had achieved for the formerly incarcerated persons they serve.

The project’s primary goals were to reduce recidivism, preventing release from jail to homelessness, and bridge the gap in support for women and gender-diverse individuals.

One year on, Caitlan’s Place and Coverdale reported a 40% reduction in releases to homelessness, and more importantly, Northpine’s investment unlocked permanent, sustainable funding from the Department of Community Services (DCS).

A staff member at Caitlan’s Place, emphasized the importance of improved access to therapeutic programs like art and equine therapy and community activities. “It doesn’t really matter how much professional support you have, if you’re disconnected from the people who give your life purpose. And I think that’s what this funding has provided – accessibility and connection – that has been so impactful, and we have seen clients do better because of that,” said Olivia.


Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia (AHANS) has been actively involved in building affordable housing and in upgrading, protecting and better utilizing Nova Scotia’s existing housing stock since the mid-1980s.

AHANS owns the building where Caitlan’s place operates, and although the residents technically rent from AHANS, Coverdale has established a master lease.

With the investment received from Northpine, AHANS was able to establish the necessary property management, renovations, and code compliance to keep the building safe for residents.

Northpine’s investment helped reduce financial barriers for Coverdale and the individuals they support, ensuring housing stability for those coming out of incarceration, despite rent payment challenges.

Housing Hub

The Housing Hub – Shelter Nova Scotia program offers housing support, access to basic services, and social inclusion, catering particularly to individuals exiting the justice system. The Hub acts as a safe space, where other organizations and agencies can come in to offer services addressing the needs of the community.

The investment from Northpine supported their programs and services offered, including laundry, meals, medical appointments, DBT, legal services, haircuts and more.

Social events focused on building connections and community engagement, such as board game nights and cooking groups also saw significant growth in attendance.

This investment also supported Housing Hub core supports – aiding individuals with housing searches, paperwork, and moving assistance, even providing first month’s rent and damage deposit, and covering relocation costs.

Over the year, the expansion of staff and programming has been notable. Though limited by space, the program has effectively built trust in the community. The success of this initiative underscores its importance and relevance in addressing community needs.


Steppingstone is an organization that provides services and support to current and former sex workers, human trafficking survivors, and those who have been sexually exploited, working to reduce barriers to access to health care, education, housing, food security, and legal and financial services.

Supported by an investment from the Northpine Foundation, their main goal was to streamline all their services under one roof, avoiding the issue of lost referrals, offering comprehensive supports, including housing, support services, and a drop-in facility for meals.

Steppingstone was able to secure funding for a transition house with government support, due partly to the impact they were able to demonstrate with the investment from Northpine.

Alex Macdonnell, Executive Director of Steppingstone stressed the importance of trust and unrestricted investment they received from Northpine. “There was no set mandate of what we had to spend the money on,” said MacDonnell. “You don’t see a lot of that. Having that trust that we were going to use this funding to help benefit our clients and our program users was amazing.”


Mobile Outreach Street Health (MOSH) , part of the Northend Community Health Center, has been focused on providing primary healthcare to homeless individuals since 2009, prioritizing harm reduction. Northpine’s investment supported a three-part pilot program.

This included a transition clinic to address the vulnerable healthcare transition for those leaving incarceration. The investment supported the employment of a full-time nurse, working alongside physician Dr. Tiffany O’Donnell.

A portion of the investment supported Occupational Therapy programs at Caitlan’s Place and Holly House, supporting individuals beyond immediate healthcare needs, enhancing quality of life, and helping them engage in the community and achieve personal goals.

An Opioid Safe Supply program was also launched with physicians, a safe supply support worker, and nursing supports, and supported almost 50 individuals in the first year.

With noticeable improvements in participants’ lives over the first year of the program, MOSH focused on building and assessing the program’s effectiveness, and in the spring of 2023, secured ongoing funding support from the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

Black Power Hour

The Black Power Hour program aims to support incarcerated individuals in Canada by providing education opportunities during their time inside. Due to lack of online access, incarcerated individuals cannot engage in post-secondary education.

This program helps them access courses, with staff working with incarcerated individuals to provide them with adapted assignments and arrange exams.

Northpine’s investment supported the program to cover tuition fees, textbooks, and related expenses. The long-term goal is to create a research network, establish best practices, offer in-person support, and involve university students.

In a letter to his professor, a student of the program wrote, “I couldn’t sit around writing without writing to the person who made my dream of going to university possible. I owe you a debt of gratitude for sticking your neck out and putting your reputation on the line to give me this opportunity.” He continued, “At this moment in my life, it’s one of the few positives I have, and probably the last opportunity I’ll get to make my life amount to something respectable.”

The impact of this program goes beyond education, contributing to improved self-esteem, connection to community, employment skills, cultural knowledge, and changing perceptions.

These investments, focused on fostering an ecosystem of support for formerly incarcerated individuals in Nova Scotia, have yielded remarkable and transformative outcomes, creating a ripple effect across the community.

By allowing organizations to take risks and demonstrate their impact, our investments unlocked sustainable funding from government. Coverdale Justice Society has secured ongoing funding from the Department of Community Services for Caitlan’s Place and Honour House, a new transition house that opens this year. MOSH too, has secured ongoing funding support from the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

Northpine’s investments acted as catalysts for expansion and innovation, allowing organizations to offer holistic support services, housing solutions, healthcare, and educational opportunities. Our approach, based on trust and unrestricted support, succeeded in achieving the primary goal of reducing recidivism and homelessness, while also building a systematic web of support that fostered reintegration and thriving for the formerly incarcerated individuals served.