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Calls for Halifax-area campgrounds to stay open into the fall amid housing crisis

Mel Ellsworth from Halifax has fallen on hard times, and is now one of many people sleeping rough in the city.

“I do not like living this way but as of July 1, this has been my home,” he said of his tent setup at Halifax’s Grand Parade.

Prior to that, Ellsworth worked as a cleaner at Stadacona for almost 34 years.

He said disruptive neighbours forced him from the building he was living in in Halifax’s north end.

Ellsworth then stayed with family in Newfoundland then went to look for friends in Ontario before returning to Halifax.

He’s now waiting to move into a shelter.

“As soon as I get into the shelter it’ll help me out through the winter but that’s not me, I don’t like moving into places like that,” Ellsworth said.

He isn’t alone.

“Homelessness and affordable housing is in a crisis right now,” Halifax Regional Municipality councillor Tony Mancini said.

“We all need to do it. All orders of government need to do it. Our colleagues, our partners down at the province really need to step up and start building that social housing that is missing.”

Mancini represents Dartmouth East. He said he’s been approached by people who have been staying in trailers at local campgrounds. They’re asking for the city to keep the Shubie Campground open throughout the winter.

“They’re all working and so they just can’t find an apartment or a home that they can afford so they have a trailer and were able to live there and it’s temporary,” Mancini said.

The only hurdle is that the campground is not winterized. Meaning there would be no water for the washroom or laundry facilities.

“There’s about 22 sites that would work quite well for trailer hook up so if we can figure out the water piece then I think we are good to go,” said Mancini.

Time is ticking. Campgrounds typically close Thanksgiving weekend.

Last year Halifax was the second fastest growing city by population overall, and the vacancy rate stayed around one per cent — the second-lowest in the country.

Mancini said there is some relief coming, 7,700 units are under construction. Another 4,300 are awaiting approval of permits.

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