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Halifax to close down some encampments, saying ‘better options now exist’

Halifax Regional Municipality says it is closing and “de-designating” five of its 11 designated encampment locations “because better options now exist.”

The city first designated four sites in June 2022, then added six more in October 2023 as the number of unhoused people continued to grow.

In a release Wednesday, the municipality said outreach staff are communicating with those staying at the Geary Park green space, Saunders Park, Victoria Park, Grand Parade, and the Correctional Centre Park in Lower Sackville.

“From the outset, the municipality has been clear that the creation of designated locations would be temporary,” the release said.

“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.”

According to the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, there are more than 1,100 actively homeless people living in the Halifax area as of Jan. 30.

The municipality’s release said people staying at the six de-designated locations are being given notices saying they will have to vacate by Feb. 26.

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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,” it said.

“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.”

Beaufort Avenue Park in Halifax and Martins Park in Dartmouth are also being de-designated, “as they have not been used for the purposes of outdoor sheltering since they were designated.”

The release said there are a number of safety risks associated with sleeping in encampments, including frostbite, fire hazards, and residents being subjected to predatory behaviour like gang victimization, sexual assault and human trafficking.

“Encampments pose a danger to the community at large,” the release said.

“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.”

It said Halifax Fire has responded to 110 calls so far this year for services related to encampments, including fires, and calls to police and 311 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,” it said.

The municipality said it 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,” the release said.

More to come.

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