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'They’re going to be cold this winter': No sign of promised pallet shelters for Halifax homeless

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People who live at a homeless encampment in the Halifax-area say they’re starting to lose hope they’ll see shelters erected for them by the time the snow flies.

The province pledged millions of dollars to the project back in October, but officials say there’s more work to do.

“We feel the urgency and are working with experienced service providers across the province to find suitable land and services to support the villages,” said N.S. Community Services spokesperson Leanne Strathdee-Dowling via email.

“This is complex work that requires multiple partners to implement, including other government departments, utilities, and service providers. We have to get it right for the dignity and safety of future Pallet village residents,” the statement read.

Monday’s rain and wind storm left dry space at a premium at the Cobequid Road encampment, with standing water in a number of locations in the ballfield.

Volunteers say the weather collapsed about 10 tents at the site.

Tents are pictured at the Cobequid Ballfield homeless encampment in Lower Sackville, N.S., on Nov. 28, 2023. (Source: Samantha Ashton/The Gated Community - Cobequid Ballfield)

"Last night was really wet and windy,” resident Josh Punk told CTV News.

“It was pretty rough. Most of the tent that I went into, the people were pretty wet and soaked, but my tent was actually an old school Boy Scout tent, and it did pretty well,” he said with a smile.

Still, with cold weather settling in, the overall mood in the community isn’t positive at the moment.

“Stressed. They’re heartbroken. Angry. Every emotion that you can possibly go through,” volunteer Gail Murphy told CTV News. “They’re going to be cold this winter.”

Although the work is rewarding, Murphy says it’s also emotionally difficult.

“Last night was really devastating, coming down after work, and seeing all the tarps flapping around and some of the tents collapsing. I wanted so bad to just sit in my car and cry because what else are you going to do when everybody’s homes are literally shredding,” she said.

A puddle of water is pictured on a tarp at the Cobequid Ballfield homeless encampment in Lower Sackville, N.S., on Nov. 28, 2023 following heavy rain the night before. (Source: Samantha Ashton/The Gated Community - Cobequid Ballfield)

The provincial initiative announced Oct. 11 earmarked $7.5M to purchase 200 shelters for the coming winter from Pallet, a shelter provider.

The pre-fab shelters are basic but functional, and videos on YouTube show them assembled in minutes.

CTV News reached out to the U.S.-based company, but have so far been unable to arrange an interview with the founder and CEO, Amy King.

In the statement to CTV News, Strathdee-Dowling said, “Planning is well underway with HRM and other areas of the province. We will be able to share specific locations when we have finalized our partnerships.

“We are working as quickly as we can to get supports in place and share more details.”

“I haven’t heard anything since that (October) announcement myself,” said Punk.

“It’s a bit worrying because it feels like they’re trying to displace people because it’s a very visible space,” adding he wasn’t confident he and all of his neighbours would have access.

“The tiny homes, it seems you have to be put on a list and then you get approved, so it’s not guaranteed that the people who are here are going to be able to stay there,” he said. “It’s getting colder and it’s getting windier and it’s hard out here.”

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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