Ten community groups oppose removal of small shelters built for homeless in Halifax
HALIFAX -- The trees provide shade but can't shelter Allan DeYoung from his anxiety.
He doesn't have a phone to track time, but knew it was Tuesday -- the deadline the city gave him to pack up.
"Hope they never come, but if they do just get it over with," DeYoung said.
His shelter doesn't have water or a toilet, but he says it's better than a tent.
He doesn't want to move to a hotel, even if the province pays for it while finding more permanent housing.
"It's almost like they're trying to bribe us to get us out of there," DeYoung said.
A group of ten community organizations is opposing the removal of small shelters built for the homeless in Halifax by an advocacy group.
The City of Halifax says Tuesday is the deadline for the removal of the shelters built by Halifax Mutual Aid, and six occupants have been offered alternative shelter by the province.
DeYoung's anxiety was mostly a result of not knowing what would happen, but in the afternoon — the mayor made it clear.
"Our hope is we'll be able to reach an agreement with everybody who's in these shelters -- that's always been the arrangement with the department of community services," said Mike Savage, Halifax's mayor. "We don't want people to be taken away out of these accommodations until we have a better solution. So, the Department of Community Services have been working through their support workers through the navigators the city has dealing with the people who are living in these shelters and other people who are precariously housed or not housed."
City officials say those using the shelters have been offered hotel accommodations until permanent housing can be secured.
Last week, three of the shelters were removed by the city.
"We're going to deal with people as human beings," Savage said Tuesday afternoon. "We're not going to move in in an aggressive way right now. We want to want to continue the conversation and see if we can find a better solution for those folks."
Savage said people have accepted the options given to them by the city and he's hopeful more will. He says the city doesn't have a timeline to get this done.
"I'd rather see us do it that way," said Savage.
Over the weekend, Halifax Mutual Aid deconstructed two more shelters, saying the occupants had moved out.
Savage said the city is concerned about the safety of the shelters.
"We've had a fire in one, there have been other places around the country where these type of shelters have caught fire or at least one person has been killed in a shelter, that's not safe," Savage said. "One of our jobs as a municipality is to ensure the health and safety of residents. We approve buildings before they can go up."
Community organizations opposing the removals include Dalhousie Legal Aid Service, the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers, the Nova Scotia Action Coalition for Community Well-Being, the Coverdale Courtwork Society, and the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia.
Several groups alo question whether it's constitutional.
"Courts have said it's not okay for the city to remove homeless encampments and it's not clear to us that the alternatives beingoffered by the city are safe and adequate to the needs of people living in the shelters," said Mark Culligan of Dalhousie Legal Aid Service.