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Tents at Grand Parade Photo: Megan St. Rose

Halifax mayor believes better solutions exist for homeless

By Steve MacArthur Feb 7, 2024 | 10:41 PM

Mayor Mike Savage believes people living in tents should never be an acceptable option.

He made the comments on Wednesday as the city prepares to shut down five designated camps in about two weeks.

Savage says the sites were never intended to be long term solutions and they want to have conversations with people to find them the best accommodations possible.

The sites being undesignated include Grand Parade, Victoria Park, Saunders Park, the Geary Street green space, and the ball field in Lower Sackville.

“The municipality remains committed to ensuring those sleeping rough are provided better alternatives, working toward having safer, long-term housing options for everyone who needs them. Indoor facilities are a better option than sleeping rough,” a release from HRM reads. “They offer much needed supports and provide a warm space, electricity, running water, showers, laundry services, regular meals and a place to store belongings.”

Residents living in the sites listed above will have until February 26 to move to the new shelter at the Halifax Forum, hotels or modular/Pallet homes.

Example of a pallet shelter (Province of Nova Scotia)

The city wants to avoid the riots and protests that took place in 2021 after police began dismantling make-shift sheds and tents at the old library.

Police used pepper spray and arrested several people during the backlash.

Savage feels the city is better prepared to offer those sleeping rough a safer place to go as opposed to the situation a few years ago.

The city says safety at encampments is a significant concern including health risks caused by the cold weather and targets for predatory behavior.

“There has been violence arising from encampments, accumulations of human feces, biohazardous waste, weapons and drug paraphernalia surrounding encampments, significant food waste leading to issues with rodents, as well as uncontrolled fires and propane cylinder explosions.”

It says in the past year, Halifax Fire & Emergency has responded to more than 110 calls for service related to encampments, including several tent fires.