featured Healthcare Inclusion

Bryony House empty too long, workers say

Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The building on South Park Street where Bryony House used to be located now is empty, and for sale. The home that used to offer 24 beds for women and children who seek safe and secure refuge from an abusive relationship has been empty ever since Hurricane Dorian damaged the building. 

I didn’t know that until very recently. Bryony House management and Board have been decidedly low key about this.  

This morning Bryony House workers, members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), and their supporters, some 70 people in all, attended a lively rally in front of the empty building to raise awareness about the issue and demand more transparency and urgency from the Bryony House Board and management.

Workers say that the structural problems of the building have been known for a long time, some $5.2 million funding was obtained from the feds and the province, but nonetheless years later there is little or nothing to show for it.

In a letter in the Chronicle Herald Maria MacIntosh, executive director of Bryony House, counters that service to its clients continues, that it is in the midst of securing a temporary location, and that construction of a new 24-bed shelter will begin this winter.

In the letter MacIntosh worries that what the workers and PSAC are doing may suggest to women in need that no help is available through Bryony House at all at this time. 

“If women do not believe that there are options available to them or that staff can bring them to safety, they may not call us at all. It is, indeed, life or death. We encourage anyone who needs the support of Bryony House to contact our 24-hour distress line at 902-422-7650,” MacIntosh writes.

“We have augmented our service delivery model to increase support for women and children during this time of transition. Until we are able to relocate to our temporary shelter, we are working in partnership with various community organizations to ensure there are not any gaps in service delivery, and that those in need have access to secure shelter and resources. At the same time, our Board of Directors is currently working through the permitting, and lease, for a temporary location. We also remain focused on the build of our new shelter, writes MacIntosh in a further response we received after this story was published/.

You can read that full response here.

Photo Robert Devet

“Getting another place is wonderful, but why didn’t they do this 68 days ago, why were there no contingency plans,” asked a worker. “This community needs a shelter. Sure there are other places where women can go to, but they are not specialized in what we do. This is where the women and children need to be, not shipped off to Truro, not shipped off to Cape Breton.”

“We have 24/7 crisis counsellors available, so if women wake up in the middle of the night because of trauma and abuse, they come down the stairs and meet with a counsellor in the front office. Right now how are we doing that? When women are staying in hotels for two nights we are not doing our job. Providing counselling over the phone is not the same thing,” she said.

This is not about the workers’ narrow interests, this is about the women and children, Colleen Coffey, Atlantic Regional Executive Vice President of PSAC, told the Nova Scotia Advocate.

“The members came to me, and that’s why we launched a campaign. I had a meeting two weeks ago with 17 of the 24 workers and we went around the table. Every single one of them said, this is not about my job, I care about the women and children. Their concern is that we have been 68 days without beds,” Coffey said.  

Learn more and take action at www.weneedahome.ca

November 15, 17:00 PM. This story was updated after publication with quotes from (and a link to) a media release issued by Bryony House management today.

With a special thanks to our generous donors who make publication of the Nova Scotia Advocate possible.

Subscribe to the Nova Scotia Advocate weekly digest and never miss an article again. It’s free!



  1. I hope they find a new home very soon…wish i could in some way…but i am a senior citizen now on a fixed income …so not easy for me. I was there many years ago….

    1. We’re so happy you received the help you so rightly deserved in your time of distress. This happens more often then you think and it’s so nice to know that we have a Transition House for abused women and their children.

  2. Halifax needs a shelter with beds for women and children!
    If the decision to close Bryony House was made on financial grounds, what was the reasoning? The shelter had 24 beds, and the required security systems, fire escapes etc. in place. While maintenance issues which were known for a while, as well as the hurricane damage required repairs, the money invested in these would have maintained the facility fully operational, with 24 beds. It would also have added equity before the eventual sale at the time of opening of the future facility. Compare this to the cost for modification and rent of a temporary location, likely with a fraction of the number of beds, for 2 years or longer, if construction gets behind schedule.

Comments are closed.