HRM issues statement on closing, de-designating some encampments

The encampment at Grand Parade. (File Photo by Sean Dewitt/Waterfront HFX Media)

HALIFAX: HRM announced Feb. 7 it is closing and de-designating five of the 11 designated locations because better options now exist.

The province of Nova Scotia and service providers have identified indoor sheltering and supportive housing options; and we will all be working together to support residents in encampments to move indoors.

Municipal outreach staff are in the process of giving notices and communicating with those sleeping rough in encampments at the Geary Street green space, Saunders Park, Victoria Park, Grand Parade and the Correctional Centre Park in Lower Sackville, that these designated locations will be closing effective today and have been de-designated.

Those sheltering in these locations have been given direction to vacate by Monday, February 26.

Supports, including information about available resources, transportation of people and belongings, continue to be made available.

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The municipality remains committed to ensuring those sleeping rough are provided better alternatives, working toward having safer, long-term housing options for everyone who needs them.

Indoor facilities are a better option than sleeping rough. They offer much needed supports and provide a warm space, electricity, running water, showers, laundry services, regular meals and a place to store belongings.

From a public health and safety perspective, access to safe drinking water, sanitary services, and environments free of rodents, physical, biological and fire hazards is important.

From the outset, the municipality has been clear that the creation of designated locations would be temporary. They were established to address an immediate need to ensure people had a location to go to if they had no other option but to sleep rough.

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The municipality is constantly assessing the need for designated locations.

As more indoor shelter spaces and supportive housing options become available, more parks will be closed, de-designated and returned to their intended purposes as spaces for everyone.

Two additional locations de-designated

Two more locations were de-designated effective Wednesday, Feb. 7, Beaufort Avenue Park in Halifax, and Martins Park in Dartmouth, as they have not been used for the purposes of outdoor sheltering since they were designated in the fall 2023.

These two parks remain open to the public.

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Safety risks at encampments

The safety risk to those in and around encampments is a significant concern.

In addition to health risks caused by exposure to frostbite and cold-weather injuries, those in encampments can be targets for predatory behaviour that victimizes some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

Issues range from gang victimization, and human trafficking to physical and sexual assault, as well as sexual exploitation.

Encampments pose a danger to the community at large.

There has been violence arising from encampments, accumulations of human feces, biohazardous waste, weapons and drug paraphernalia surrounding encampments, significant food waste leading to issues with rodents, as well as uncontrolled fires and propane cylinder explosions.

In the past year, Halifax Fire & Emergency has responded to more than 110 calls for service related to encampments, including several tent fires.

The number of calls to 311, as well as calls for service to police and fire, have increased significantly over the past year. The type of calls range from reports of litter and the presence of new encampments to emergency calls related to emergency medical issues, fires, assaults and weapons.

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Commitment to ongoing support and longer-term solutions

The municipality is committed to supporting the province in developing long-term housing solutions.

The municipality will continue to treat people experiencing homelessness with dignity while working to find ways to best support them within its capacity and scope.

This includes enhanced efforts on the ground, collaborating with Street Navigators, the province and its service providers to actively work with and offer supports to anyone experiencing homelessness in the Halifax region.

HRM will also continue working with other orders of government, as well as through partnerships with community housing not-for-profits, on initiatives to support the creation of affordable and deeply affordable housing, such as the Affordable Housing Grant Program, the Rapid Housing Initiative and the Housing Accelerator Fund.

For more information, visit our website.