The staff at Out of the Cold (OTC) would like to strongly voice our support for Halifax Mutual Aid (HMA), for the hard work they have volunteered towards constructing and installing crisis shelters for people experiencing homelessness. Our city (and province) is facing a growing affordable housing crisis, and the number of folks on the street has skyrocketed during this past year. HMA has rallied a unique, innovative, and unfortunately necessary sheltering option for folks who are systematically deprived of safe, sustainable housing. Throughout their months of planning and building, HMA has worked closely with many of the most knowledgeable workers in shelters and homelessness outreach in HRM, including staff at OTC, Street Navigators, housing support workers, and others. We believe this project has been thoroughly informed and driven by those actively leading and advocating in our communities.
Staff at OTC are very concerned by some councillors’ attempts to discredit the diligent, compassionate work of HMA. We feel that their criticisms of the crisis shelters are deeply uninformed and misguided. Our councillors have a responsibility to take the housing emergency seriously and we believe that the least they can do is support grassroots initiatives like HMA. Such initiatives would not be necessary if we had a municipal government that prioritized action and solutions that address the inaction on behalf of the province.
We believe that some councillors have unfairly taken advantage of their privileged platform by attempting to defame HMA while distracting from the true matter at hand: that housing is a human right for all, and that the city has not made significant, if any, contributions towards this cause. These shelters are a necessary emergency response, but they are in no way a long-term fix.
For these reasons, we implore Mayor Mike Savage, CAO Jacques Dube, and the city councillors to formally release a statement in support of Halifax Mutual Aid and commit to protecting the crisis shelters without imposing unnecessary stipulations. We also demand the council and city staff consider how their resources and budget can contribute to solving the housing crisis in light of insufficient action by the current provincial government, and then put plans into action. Decades without any significant investment in public and/or accessible housing will require a swift and robust response, above and beyond the inadequate allotments outlined in the Nova Scotia Action Plan.
There is a great opportunity to create a housing system that combats this crisis, a system that prioritizes accessibility and equity, centering those who have been marginalized. All it takes is true initiative to imagine and create something better than our oppressive, deeply commodified housing system. There are a multitude of folks and organizations who have been doing this work for a long time, and who could adequately inform this action.
OTC is happy to consult with any councillors who wish to learn about the insufficient support and systematic barriers faced by folks experiencing homelessness.
We appreciate you reading this letter, and look forward to seeing your solidarity and action to combat this crisis.
– Employees of Out Of The Cold Community Association.
This letter was sent to all Halifax Councillors, Mayor Mike Savage, and CAO Jacques Dube. It was also forwarded it to all Nova Scotia MLA’s.
Check out our new community calendar!
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!