Housing Update #3

What’s Happened Since The Last Update

The Official Press release – Today, Mayor Mike Savage, and Assistant Chief of Emergency Management, Erica Fleck provided an update regarding ongoing efforts to help address homelessness in the Halifax region. Full video of this update: https://youtu.be/wkxYAvVqyiw

The municipality continues to collaborate with the province, along with professional service providers and volunteers, to provide support to those experiencing homelessness in our region.

In August, Regional Council unanimously approved investing up to $500,000 towards a range of emergency accommodations for those experiencing homelessness. Further to this, Halifax Regional Municipality:

  • Is in discussions with the province to establish two emergency accommodations sites in the very near future
  • Has secured 24 modular units that can provide accommodations for up to 73 individuals
  • Recently transitioned Gray Arena to a temporary emergency shelter with Out of the Cold as the service provider and funding from the province for wrap-around services
  • Is hiring a coordinator for a one-year term to act as a liaison with professional service providers and ensure better aligned efforts in support of those experiencing homelessness
  • Has been allocated more than $20M through the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative program for 137 units of new permanent, affordable housing

Through collaboration with professional service providers and volunteers, occupants of the homeless encampment at Meagher Park continue to be offered an alternative, safe, temporary accommodations. It is important to remember that some of those experiencing homelessness will not – or cannot – accept housing options, temporary accommodations, and/or other offers of support for a variety of reasons.
For more information on the municipality’s approach to homelessness and initiatives to support affordable housing: https://www.halifax.ca/about-halifax/regional-community-planning/affordable-housing

My Take – I don’t support or expect the municipality to take action to force people out of parks while we work to ensure safe and appropriate alternatives. What is needed at this time is baby steps and building goodwill.

A goal must be to de-escalate the tension in these parks and build solid working relationships with the municipality’s intentions through actions and offering real alternatives, not talk and promises.

It has been 28 days since PADS volunteers first told us that the park was becoming “unsafe and untenable” and that they would vacate the park if a tenable solution was found.

This lead to a month of work that started with the attempt to house folks at the Comfort Inn and the subsequent understanding that this is no longer a viable option as the economy heats up. This is why we are now making the modular option happen, something I first suggested in my letter to the party leaders on July 29.  https://wayemason.ca/2021/07/29/questions-for-leaders-regarding-affordable-housing-in-halifax/

Right now HRM is working on the peaceful and voluntary transfer of Meagher Park dwellers to Grey Rink as an interim step, and the set-up of the modular units announced today within a partnership with professional service agencies for each site.

I am also advocating for a couple of small-scale camping sites for those that for a variety of complex reasons cannot feel safe in Grey, as an interim step to the modular housing announced today and the other projects (Pepperell and Dartmouth North) that collectively will create 137 units and should get us to a place where we have safe and appropriate alternatives to parks for the immediate number of unhoused people.

It is important to recognize that Erica Fleck has met with everyone actually involved in the park – PADS volunteers, park residents, and professional service providers.  PADS own minutes show what commitments were and were not made by HRM.  Erica has been hand-delivering this letter to residents and volunteers.

Any suggestion that folks are being threatened with a Friday eviction is a complete fabrication from folks no longer involved with this park or this process.

I do not support or condone the construction and use of unsafe temporary structures and the fire and tragic death this week has underlined that these types of structures are not viable solutions.

HRM needs to take its time with this and let these changes sit with those in need and allow them to move under their own volition.  But ultimately, we are working to create spaces for all, and remove all tents and structures from parks, and restore these parks to being parks.

I expect that the Province shares the cost of setting up these options and that they provide funding to the professional service providers to provide wrap-around services.

Again, ultimately HRM’s goal is to ensure all the vulnerable residents have somewhere safe and appropriate to go. At the end of that process, camping in parks will not be needed or allowed.

HRM will continue to work hard to house these folks, though inevitably mistakes and setbacks will occur, which is what you can expect in a situation like this.  I urge patience from all.  I am available to meet with anyone who wants to help with this work.

Other Items

Expansion of Affordable Housing Grant Program: The double the size of this year’s Affordable Housing Grant Program by allocating an additional $200,000 from the 2021/22 operating budget for Planning and Development to the Program. The Program supports the rehabilitation and construction of affordable housing units by registered non-profit or charitable housing organizations.

Next Steps

  • I did not have time in the last two days to get an update on HRM’s Affordable Housing Work Plan so I will share that with you next week.
  • Continue to pressure the Provincial government to step up to this crisis as I wrote herehere and here.
  • Locations for modular and temporary camping sites should be announced in the next week