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Former hotel transformed into supportive housing for Halifax homeless


Nova Scotia's municipal affairs and housing minister toured a former Dartmouth, N.S., hotel on Tuesday that will soon become home for 60 people.

John Lohr was taken through a building that was once a Travelodge Hotel, now transformed into “The Overlook," a supportive housing project designed to help some of the most vulnerable Nova Scotians living on the streets in the Martimes’ biggest municipality.

“The people we're prioritizing to live here are people right now that are sleeping rough and that have an addiction,” said Marie-France LeBlanc, the CEO of the North End Community Health Centre.

The centre is operating the facility, where residents will sign a lease and pay rent based on how much income assistance they receive.

“Income assistance recipients will pay the old shelter component, which is $535,” said Jim Graham of the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia (AHANS), another partner in the project.

“Anybody that’s on disability pension, CPP, OAS, or those pensions will pay 30 per cent of their pension amount,” Graham continued.

The facility will have staff on-site 24/7, and services will include harm reduction services, counselling treatment, peer support, and nursing care.

LeBlanc says there is a mix of bachelor and one-bedroom suites on three floors, all with kitchenettes, and furniture is available to those who need it.

There is also a community kitchen for larger gatherings, along with clinic space and a dispensary for harm reduction.

“Once the occupancy permit is in place, which we hope is shortly, we’ll be starting to move people in, we’ll be moving a skeleton crew in immediately and then moving people in 10 at a time,” said LeBlanc.

“It addresses a very high-needs population, who have maybe multiple issues, certainly addictions, and who need a lot of wraparound services,” said Lohr.

“And this is permanent. This is a permanent residence for 60 individuals."

The project is the result of $11.5 million of government funding - $6.5 million from the city and the federal government and $5 million from the province.

“That was really the impetus for us to be serious and take advantage of the opportunity,” says Graham.

But officials agreed there is still more work to be done to address the growing number of Nova Scotians experiencing homelessness.

According to AHANS, more than 712 people are considered actively homeless in the city and a street check in November found at least 85 people sleeping in the rough.

“It's a start, and how quickly can we have more units?” asks social worker Patricia Stephens-Brown, who works with vulnerable people in Lower Sackville, N.S.

She recently sent a letter to all three levels of government, calling for a more collaborative approach to achieve “functional zero homelessness," which she says several U.S. communities have done.

She says the federal government’s response referenced its support in creating 4,100 affordable housing units in Halifax, a number she feels doesn’t reflect what she’s seeing in the community.

She says support agencies are stretched to the limit trying to help people with different housing needs.

“[We have] families, we have youth, we have people with disabilities, we have people, individuals working,” says Stephens-Brown.

“It’s not just an inner-city problem, it’s everywhere. There are more and more people who are sleeping in tents and then getting up to go to work,” she adds.

Challenges Lohr acknowledged.

“There's a lot more to do, we know that and we're very concerned about that,” he said.

Also on Tuesday, the Municipal Affairs and Housing Department announced $19.5 million to fund upgrades to already existing affordable units, money available to both community non-profits and co-ops, along with private landlords.

According to a news release, the funds also include money for more modular units “located in areas where there is available land and urgent need.” Top Stories

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