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'Conditions are inhumane': Man dies in Dartmouth tent encampment


Sarah Lalonde often visits the tent encampment located steps away from the Dartmouth, N.S., shelter she calls home, formerly the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, to drop off warm meals.

When police cars at the encampment caught her eye last Tuesday, Lalonde went over to see what was going on.

“All I found out from [police], they told me that he’s been dead for a couple of days,” says Lalonde.

It turned out to be a friend who Lalonde identifies as ‘Dan.’ She says he had been living on the streets for six months.

“Dan was a good guy. He helped out anybody he could and he tried his best,” she says.

Published reports by SaltWire note the victim had been using a propane heater to keep warm in the tent. Friends suggested he may have died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

This is a growing concern for those on the front lines.

“Conditions are inhumane and it has to be addressed. Unfortunately, people are using methods that aren’t safe and that is a real concern and there’s gonna be more people that are going to die if we cannot get this resolved,” says Steven Wilsack, a volunteer who supports people living in tents at Grand Parade in Halifax.

Lalonde says many living in tents understand the risks associated with using heaters that require propane tanks, but it is a way to survive.

“We are risking our lives being out here. It’s either trying to find a meal or starve.”

Advocates say it is further proof more permanent solutions are needed.

“I’ve talked about basic income around homelessness for a few years now and I think that may be our final approach, to give people funding in their pockets so that they can make their own choices. Whether it’s a very cold night to get an apartment or a room and compete in the housing market,” says Jeff Karabanow, a social work professor at Dalhousie University.

“It’s something that hasn’t been tried and we’ve tried a lot of other things and nothings worked.”

Karabanow says research suggests it could help keep people off the streets and assist those who are currently living on it.

“There has been research done on this. One out of Vancouver demonstrated it could work with the homeless population. We know it can work with general populations and there have been pilots over the last fifty years,” says Karabanow.

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