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Whitney Pier, N.S., residents picket against proposed Pallet shelters


A group of residents gathered to protest at the proposed location for a 30-unit Pallet shelter for the homeless in Whitney Pier, N.S., on Wednesday.

Organizers said the impromptu gathering took place because they are fed up with what they feel has been a lack of consultation throughout the process.

"Why were there surveyors down here (on Wednesday), doing work and getting ready for the Pallet homes?” asked resident Tammy Starkey. “We don't want this in our neighbourhood."

"We want to be heard as a community, and we want to make a difference — and we're being ignored,” said Liv Howard, who had a prospective buyer for her Henry Street home back out of the sale after learning about the Pallet shelter plans.

On Tuesday night, more than 200 people attended a community meeting at the Polish Village Hall about the issue.

"The overall sentiment was, 'We're here to help,’” said area councilor Lorne Green of the public meeting. “We are definitely here to help, but we don't want any problems that may come with any 'encampment,' as they're calling it."

However, when asked whether residents’ reactions have amounted to a “Not In My Backyard” mentality, Green said he felt it doesn’t.

"No, not at all, because they're not thinking that way,” Green said. “They're thinking, 'If anything, let's do what we can to make this a success.' (However), if it's not successful, then we're hoping that the minister (Department of Community Services Minister Trevor Boudreau) does the same thing by reversing the decision."

A spokesperson for New Dawn Enterprises, one of the local groups that is backing the proposal, said while they have met with resistance when it comes to the location, they feel even the biggest naysayers recognize there is a need for housing.

"I think it's a perfectly natural response to any type of development that's happening in a community,” said Alyce MacLean, project manager of housing development for New Dawn. "Every single person we've talked to has begun their concerns by saying, 'I understand the need for housing. I want people to be housed.' People in this community know each other, and are very caring and are very empathetic."

Cape Breton University political scientist Tom Urbaniak, who is from Whitney Pier, said as a “melting pot” community, the area has a history of welcoming people.

However, he added the community also has a history of feeling as if their voices are not being heard.

"Resisting any change because there's a knee-jerk fear that that will have a negative impact on property values — that's not really a Pier dynamic,” Urbaniak said. “A recipe for success in the Pier is to actively involve the communities, organizations.”

Pallet shelters have been approved in other communities, such as in Lower Sackville, N.S.

CTV Atlantic asked some people in Halifax on Wednesday what they would think of having such an arrangement next door.

"If they had proper housing for them it would work a lot better, and I'd have no problem with it in my neighbourhood,” said one HRM resident.

"People need a place to go,” said another.

"If it's near schools, it's an issue,” said a third resident. “If they're not equipped with porta-potties if they're leaving a lot of garbage around, needles."

In Whitney Pier, the next step is a meeting with provincial government officials on Feb. 5.

"It doesn't seem fair to anybody — the people who need the homes, or us in the community,” said Bill Murchison, who also turned out for Wednesday’s protest.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories

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