Crisis shelters in Halifax 'will be removed' says municipality
HALIFAX -- A volunteer group that built so-called "crisis shelters" in Halifax to help those in the city who are homeless is upset the municipality plans to take them down.
Halifax Mutual Aid built 13 of the small wooden framed structures throughout the city earlier this year. There are several in front of Halifax's old library on Spring Garden Road, and others scattered on both sides of the bridges.
The group says all of them are now fully occupied and says there are also 21 people on its waiting list.
"It was really important to us that people had somewhere safe with a roof over their head with a lock on their door," says group spokesperson Campbell McClintock.
When the first ones were erected in January, the city said Halifax Mutual Aid didn't have permission to build them on municipal land.
But at the time, it also said occupants would not be evicted unless they had somewhere else to go.
Now, McClintock says the city has been informing occupants they will soon be provided another place to stay.
"And what the city is offering is a hotel room for no longer than two weeks," says McClintock, "maybe longer, although there's no guarantee it will be longer."
"And there's no promise," he adds, "of housing after the hotel room."
McClintock believes once the crisis shelters are all empty, the city will take them down. He says city officials have never directly communicated with the group about the municipality's plans.
In an email statement provided late Wednesday to CTV News in lieu of a requested interview, the municipality confirmed McClintock's suspicions.
"These shelters cannot remain on-site indefinitely and will be removed" writes city public affairs advisor Maggie-Jane Spray. "A deadline has not yet been finalized."
"Placing anything in a park for the purpose of temporary or permanent accommodation is not permitted under By-Law P-600."
The city says staff have been working with the province and Street Outreach Navigators to find adequate housing for the people living in the temporary shelters.
According to the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, the city has not made measurable progress on homelessness, with about 400 people in the city still without homes. Half of those people have been homeless for six months or longer.
The association's executive director describes the current situation as "treading water" – in which the number of people who are homeless hasn't changed dramatically one way or the other.
Jim Graham says if the city is planning to move the occupants of the temporary shelters, it needs a long-term solution.
"It's easy to say let's, it's better in a hotel, it's safer, it's warmer," says Graham, "but if you think about how you exit that strategy, it's hard."
Graham says shelters are full, there's a lack of affordable housing, and recent Rapid Housing building projects have barely broken ground, if at all.
McClintock says many occupants using the shelters feel more at home there than they would in other accommodations, such as shelters.
"They're the best possible solution for a number of people who are going to be sleeping in tents or bank lobbies," he says.
Halifax Mutual Aid intends to hold a COVID safe rally at 2 p.m. Sunday at the old Halifax Memorial Library to highlight its concerns.