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Deputy Mayor reflects on Spring Garden homeless evictions one year later

Aug 18, 2022 | 2:09 AM

Nick Fewings / Unsplash

Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of a heated protest against the removal of a downtown-Halifax-homeless-encampment that ended with crowds of people being pepper sprayed by Halifax Regional Police. 

“At the end of the day, what happened this past year cannot happen again,” said Deputy Mayor and councilor for the St. Margarets Bay area, Pam Lovelace, in an interview reflecting on the last 12 months. 

On Aug. 18, 2021, police lined up shield-to-shield in front of hundreds of protestors, who gathered as Halifax Mutual Aid’s emergency shelters were dismantled and removed from the lawn of the former dSpring Garden Library.

Since then, the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness in the Halifax area has grown to 469, according to numbers from the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia (AHANS). 

The past year has been a learning experience for council, Lovelace said. 

“HRM doesn’t have social workers. We don’t have a community services department like it’s some of the other large cities across the country,” she said. “It’s been a steep learning curve to be able to [get] people into accommodations, and finding the support for them that they need,” she said.

In Nova Scotia, housing falls under provincial jurisdiction, and while the municipality does give some property tax revenue to the Metropolitan Regional Housing Association, which falls under the Department of Community Services, Lovelace said the approximately $3-5 million typically allocated to that is pennies compared to the spending put toward housing solutions in the past year.  

Adding to the pressure over the past year is public outrage at the situation.

“While there’s individuals who feel that HRM should manage housing, and the homelessness file in HRM, there are also others that say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, aren’t we paying the Province of Nova Scotia to do this work?’” 

Despite the challenges, Lovelace said there were some modest wins in the fight against homelessness. 

Council approved a number of initiatives aimed at creating housing fast, including green-lighting modular housing units, new land use policies for tiny homes and changing by-laws to allow secondary suites to be added to homes or properties.

“We were able to, in the past year, help more than 130 people who were directly impacted by homelessness.”

Going forward, Lovelace said there will be conversations about which level of government will be responsible for operating and delivering housing programs and services going forward. 

“It is a tag team situation right now. But unfortunately, we don’t have a clear understanding of who’s doing what. And obviously if the housing file does move over to municipalities, that’s going to create a huge burden for smaller rural municipalities.”

The two levels of government are in the process of negotiating the municipal-provincial service exchange agreement.

She expects that process will take between 12-18 months to wrap up.

“[There] has to be a much more clear understanding between the province, the municipality, the federal government and the public, as far as who is responsible for what?”



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