KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Despite the tireless efforts of front line workers and volunteers, homeless shelters are not a safe place to be during a pandemic. Living in close proximity and sharing washrooms is risky. Once infected, the chance of complications is high because not being healthy and being poor go hand in hand.
Yet so far the province has done little to help homeless people in Halifax and rural Nova Scotia. We have the feds to thank for what has been accomplished so far.
To alleviate pressures in Halifax three pop-up shelters were set up, with staffing paid for by federal emergency money, CBC reports. As well, 20 residents of the Stay out of The Cold emergency shelter now live in hotel rooms, also paid for by the feds.
At this time we know that at least one resident of a pop-up shelter in Halifax has been infected. Other residents of the shelter are being tested and for the time being are self-isolating in hotel rooms.
“I think the city, the province, really have to think through what is best for this population, what is best for actually the whole community, our whole citizenship around getting everybody to safe spaces so that we can beat this pandemic,” Jeff Karabanow, co-founder of Out of the Cold emergency shelter told the CBC.
When asked about his non-action on homeless shelters at one of last week’s daily briefings Premier Stephen McNeil was evasive. It doesn’t look like action is forthcoming.
Nova Scotia is heavily into symbolic gestures when it comes to supporting marginalized citizens during the pandemic. Measures the government can point to when journalists ask, but not the kind of thing that actually costs money and makes a difference.
Proper housing is a human right, and everybody who is homeless deserves the relative safety and dignity provided by a hotel room, if not a home. This is always the case, not just during a pandemic, but now more than ever. It is time for the province to do its share.
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