KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Tents shoved into garbage bins. A shelter destroyed and its remnants left piled on the ground. Wafts of mace left behind on the clothing of protesters, staining the memory of Wednesday’s horrific events. Halifax has never been uglier, and efforts to hide the reality of homelessness will never mask the mess the city made of it all .
Nova Scotia is experiencing its worst housing crisis to date, and just building more rentals is meaningless if few can afford their rent. According to the Affordable Housing Association, there were a documented 120 residents experiencing homelessness in the HRM in 2019. A number that’s since grown to over 400, partly due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 and an unprecedented interest in Nova Scotia from out-of-province folks.
Despite a finite rent freeze and the financial relief of CERB, many of those who had been laid off, outright fired, or jobless before the pandemic find themselves facing even deeper financial hardships than before. Now, it’s not just about finding work; it’s about finding work that will pay for the cost of living in a city with 1.9 percent vacancy.
And then police circled the third crisis shelter like an army of ants. Police at times wore full riot gear, while pushing and pepper spraying the unarmed protesters who were merely trying to protect their neighbours. The community has stayed strong in its response, police action is not the solution.
Of the dozens of signs seen at the rally, one read in-part: the least you could do is nothing. This begs the questions: What kind of city punishes its hard up citizens? What kind of city disrupts the foundations of community support and mutual aid? What kind of city votes in favour of an almost 2.3 million dollar increase in the police budget instead?
Despite all this, there’s one thing this city does have going for it. There’s hope in the heart of our community thanks to all the people advocating for change, protesting, emailing and donating their money and time.
Without their efforts, the city of Halifax would be littered with nothing but shame.
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