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Halifax considers adding more designated encampment sites given lack of housing options

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The number of people experiencing homelessness in the Halifax region continues to climb, with 1,222 people on the by-name list as of April 23.

People working with the homeless population say this figure is likely much higher given the voluntary nature of the by-name list.

As homelessness increases, the Halifax Regional Municipality is considering expanding and adding more designated encampment sites.

Despite the recent closure of five such sites and an initial aim to avoid creating more, the growing homeless population and lack of better housing options has pushed the municipality to establish of additional encampment sites.

“There’s a number of really exciting initiatives coming forward for the province, like Pallet shelters and tiny homes,” said Max Chauvin, director of housing and homelessness in Halifax. “But their timing is going to be slightly offset from what we see now, which is a growing need for sheltering outside, so we are looking at potentially setting up some more designated locations to bridge that gap.”

Currently, there are four designated encampment sites in Halifax, including the Barrington Greenway, the berm on University Avenue, Green Road Park, and Lower Flynn Park. However, all four sites are already overcrowded according to Chauvin and more tents are popping up in other unauthorized sites around the city.

Residents like Robert Denman and Shelley Boudreau have recently set up tents at the University Avenue encampment site. They prefer tenting over shelters due to the lack of restrictions.

“I feel relaxed and at ease here,” said Denman. “There’s nobody coming to bother you. Nobody coming to harass you.”

"I won't go to a shelter,” Boudreau said. “There's a curfew there. I'm like 50 something years old. Why do I need a curfew?"

The encampment site at University Avenue is temporary and will close in the fall, as it is not considered safe during snow clearing operations due to its location on green space wedged between two lanes of traffic.

Efforts are underway to provide better options for the homeless, such as Pallet shelters, with more than 50 planned for the former encampment site in Lower Sackville, although completion timelines are uncertain.

As summer approaches, more people are expected to go out outside and find shelter in tents, prompting the municipality to recognize the urgent need for additional temporary space.

“Really it’s to find enough space that people can have a place to go while we wait for those new options to come online,” said Chauvin.

Halifax council will review the homelessness report on May 7 and examine options for new designated encampment sites.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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