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Donations to Halifax tent encampment could result in a public health concern, says those living there

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The tent encampment on University Avenue in Halifax has grown over the past few months and while community members have donated food to the people living there, their efforts have brought some concern.

“There have been instances where people have pulled up and just dropped off the food on a picnic table or a bench and the people don't even know it's there. Sometimes it's just left out in the sun and no one touches it,” said Max Chauvin, Halifax Regional Municipality's director of Housing and Homelessness.

This can result in an increase in the number of birds and rodents in the area, which can become a public health concern.

Samantha Nickerson and her partner Trent Smith, live in the encampment on University Avenue. They said people have often left food without letting those living in the area know. They worry this will create problems with unwanted pests at the encampment.

“The last thing we want is other rats and rodents around because then the bylaw will shut us down and then we'll have nowhere to go,” said Nickerson.

This image was taken at the tent encampment on University Avenue in Halifax on May 23, 2024.

This has happened before. It is one of the reasons the city closed the Victoria Park encampment.

“You would find people who would tell you that their toes were bitten by rats at night, or they would wake up and find rats in their tents and their belongings and items were chewed on,” said Chauvin.

He said exterminators have been called to the University Avenue encampment a few times already, however, the city says it is not considered a public health concern yet.

The city suggests people who want to help should ask those living at encampments what they need.

“They don’t have anywhere to store it or heat it and some even have severe allergies to things,” said Chauvin.

Nickerson said she and Trent rely on food donations and do not want them to stop either.

“It’s beneficial for most of us because it means we aren’t going two or three days without having to get something to eat. There could be a stereotype which makes people nervous but they should just come over and talk to us.”

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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