This article was originally published in the Chronicle Herald. It is republished here with the author’s kind permission.
KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – There is a housing crisis in Nova Scotia and throughout the Atlantic region, and with the ushering in of a new Progressive Conservative government here that doesn’t believe in rent control, the sad reality is that many more folks will likely be without shelter.
Groups like Halifax Mutual Aid and their supporters have worked to provide temporary crisis shelters since the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) council refuses to take meaningful action to protect our houseless neighbours. Despite these efforts, the HRM council gave the go ahead for the Halifax Regional Police to destroy crisis shelters that were created by volunteers and paid for with donations from the community. Shelters were destroyed and personal possessions were trashed. Supporters who tried to protect these shelters and their occupants were confronted by and, in some cases, arrested by the police.
With all of this heaviness, I couldn’t help but reflect on my privilege of having stable shelter, but also on past experiences where I could very well have been without shelter.
When I was eight years old, my family experienced a house fire. We managed to escape but lost all of our items, as our house burnt to the ground. We ended up living with my grandparents while we waited for our new house to be built. What if we didn’t have proper insurance or my grandparents? What then?
When I was a bit older, my parents were going through a divorce. My father forced us out of the house and my grandparents took us in. Again, what if we didn’t have my grandparents? Would my brother and I have been forced to the streets with our mother?
What about when I was an undergraduate university student, struggling to make rent? What if I didn’t have my mother and grandparents to help me make rent that one time I just couldn’t?
And what about this past year, when my chronically ill mother almost lost her leg? She was in the hospital for months and had eventually lost her job. My grandparents, who really are the “rocks” of our family, set up an accessible room for my then disabled mother to live in.
Since she’s gotten on her feet (both figuratively and literally), my mother still cannot find a place to live, let alone a place in her price range. Not only is Nova Scotia severely lacking rental units, but the ones that are available are ridiculously overpriced. My mother, who has now returned to work and works full time at a family resource centre, still cannot afford a rental.
This is not sustainable.
Although I do see many folks in support of a rental cap and housing for all, I still see many who are against these actions. Some fellow Nova Scotians are downright uncaring towards the issue of houselessness and those who are in situations of precarity.
However, I am here to remind all you that we are each closer to houselessness than we may think. One accident, one health issue, one missed paycheque, could land many of us out on the streets.
So, before you pass judgment, remember, it can happen to anyone.
We need rent control; we need housing for all.Hailie Tattrie is a sociologist and a PhD student in educational studies at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax. She lives in Pictou County with her partner. She can be reached via Twitter at @HailieTattrie and via email firstname.lastname@example.org
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