featured Poverty

Hands off the Halifax crisis shelters

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Persistent rumors that the city is about to expel unhoused people from the 13 shelters provided by Halifax Mutual Aid have now been confirmed by city staff.

“These shelters cannot remain on-site indefinitely and will be removed” city public affairs advisor Maggie-Jane Spray told CTV News reporter Heidi Petracek. “A deadline has not yet been finalized.”

“Placing anything in a park for the purpose of temporary or permanent accommodation is not permitted under By-Law P-600.”

Campbell McClintock, a spokesperson for Halifax Mutual Aid, tells ATV that the city offers shelter occupants a two-week stay in a hotel room, perhaps longer, but without any kind of guarantee of a permanent solution.

Several councillors have spoken out on Twitter in defense of the proposed evictions, although pursuing different, and sometimes contradictory, reasoning.

District 7 councillor Waye Mason leaves little doubt where he stands.

“There is no space on a chart of housing and shelter types of sheds,” he tweets. “We are focused on housing humans, not institutionalizing substandard housing in unsafe encampments,” he adds in a follow-up.

Meanwhile North End councillor Lindell Smith argues that he simply doesn’t have the power because these “operational” decisions are the domain of  CAO Jacques Dube.

Both arguments are seriously flawed. 

Mason has a point when he argues that the shelters are far from ideal. Halifax Mutual AId would be the first to agree. However, encampments are here to stay, regardless of the Halifax Mutual Aid shelters, and sleeping under a bridge in a tent is considerably less safe than the shelters, which are built with fire-retardant materials and have proper locks.

In fact, both current occupants of the shelters, as well as staff of Out of the Cold have come out in support of the shelters. They may be sheds, they may be far from ideal, but they are a hell of a lot better than sleeping rough.

Whereas Mason sounds like the man in charge, Smith argues it’s none of his business, it’s an operational issue, and simply a matter of bylaw enforcement.

I have news for the councillor. Bylaws are crafted by councillors, and they can be amended by councillors. Remember how not that long ago Smith and other councillors crafted a bylaw to stop people from smoking except in designated locations?  

I follow several facebook pages where tenants post about problems with landlords. Beyond a doubt, it’s a crisis out there. Tenants write about being renovicted, and about the near impossibility of finding an affordable apartment anywhere. 

All this while rent control is still in effect, but that could end soon and things will become even more awful.

There are now 13 shelters put up by Halifax Mutual Aid in HRM. The group says it has a waiting list of 21. 

This is not the time for Halifax to remove the shelters.

On Sunday June 20 there will be a rally at the old Central Library in support of the work of Halifax Mutual Aid. It’s motto is “Stay out of the way if you can’t lend a hand.”

See also: Sleeping rough in HRM continues even in winter, survey shows

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One Comment

  1. If they can’t allow units to house those who are homeless then the government NEEDS to obviously change the community service allotments for housing costs. $358 for a single person is barbaric and inhumane! No wonder there’s so many on the streets.
    Single units in this city EVEN in the “getto” are over $800 a month!! Instead of destroying homes or making excuses about how it takes all these districts, departments and level of government to make changes to allow people to be housed then how about you make changes to the funding to community services! They actually SAVED money on the backs of the poor for the last 7 damn years!! There haven’t been provisional changes to rental allotments since 1993!!! (28 years ago and rents have nearly doubled!)
    Everyone goes on about how people on assistance are the ones destroying the economy but in fact this all these co-corporations that are given corporate welfare funds, hand over fist just to “stay” here… in the BILLIONS! Where as a a form of Universal benefit would assist those on assistance be able to obtain housing and not have to live in shelters outside of an abandoned library (WHICH I might add could be put to better use by being used as a housing projects!!)

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