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'Best of our worst options': Nine potential encampment sites approved in Halifax


There could eventually be tents popping up at Point Pleasant Park in Halifax.

Halifax Regional Council approved nine potential encampment sites with locations in Halifax and Dartmouth. Currently, HRM said the four designated sites are 300 per cent over capacity, which is leaving people to find shelter elsewhere.

"As hard as these decisions are, and I'm not happy about them, nobody's happy about them, this is the best of our worst options," said Coun. Waye Mason.

The other newly approved locations in Halifax include a portion of the Halifax Common, Bayers Road Windsor Street Park, BiHi Park, Chain Lake Park, Cogswell Park, and Glebe Street Park. Initially, staff also recommended Farrell Street Park and Starr Park in Dartmouth, but they were removed in favour of reopening the Geary Street Green Space. An area along Bissett Road was also approved.

"The reason that's important is because we have more people in tents than we have designated spots right now, which is why we see tents popping up all over the place," said Mason.

The biggest concerns from this new list seem to be Point Pleasant Park and a portion of the Halifax Common, where tents are already visible.

"Those are both very contentious because it's a huge change and I think it shows how much those parks are loved," said Mason.

CTV News spoke with a number of people at Point Pleasant Park, but no one wanted to appear on camera. They were all against the park being designated, and some brought up concerns of fires potentially happening there if an encampment goes ahead.

"The feeling of staff is that it can be managed, the risk can be managed, and as long as they're near the streets of that, the firefighters can respond, then we can have a plan for that," said Mason.

Point Pleasant Park is not a high priority location, so the detailed layout of where the tents would go is still being worked on.

It is still unclear when the new encampments could open and how many tents might be allowed at each location.

"What needs to happen is everybody needs to be housed. Everybody needs to be in an apartment or a tiny home or one of the pallet shelters, and those aren't done yet. They'll be done at the end of the summer, the beginning of the fall," said Mason. "We're counting on the province to deliver that. At that time, we would start to reduce the number of encampments that are allowed."

It wasn't long ago a large encampment was set up at Grand Parade just outside Halifax City Hall. The space only just recently reopened to the public after a lengthy and costly remediation process.

"We had a lot of issues here with vandalism, with thefts when the encampment was active in Grand Parade. Those issues almost disappeared immediately after the encampment was removed," said Issmat Al-Akhali with Friends of Downtown Halifax.

Al-Akhali is also a business owner. He said Friends of Downtown Halifax is happy there are more locations being designated, but still has concerns.

"Council finally acted on what our group and others have been asking for since February, which is to designate proactively some new encampment sites to take the existing overflow, and the new tents that were expected to arrive in the summer, and place them there rather than allow them to come up in areas that are concerning to residents and businesses," said Al-Akhali.

He said the group hopes to see Point Pleasant Park and Halifax Common removed from the new list.

"I think they've come up with a list that can be worked on. It is in the hands of staff now to go down this list and start to designate priority, which ones will be filled first before reaching the ones that are a little more controversial," said Al-Akhali.

He hopes as the new designated locations open, the municipality will keep a close eye elsewhere.

"We're concerned about the continued lack of enforcement, because many tents are sprouting in non-designated areas, and the city initially said that they would not allow that, but it's happening,” he said. 

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