In late August, Malcolm Kay first experienced homelessness in Halifax. He spent nearly six weeks without a permanent address. First, he was sleeping in a tent at People’s Park, then was promised—and ousted from—a room at the Comfort Inn, spent a few nights at the Gray Arena and went back to the park.
Finally, as of early October, thanks to a number of factors including both hard work and luck, he has an apartment of his own.
“I got connection through P.AD.S. and Turning Point, Shelter Nova Scotia found a one-bedroom for me,” Kay tells The Coast on a Friday evening while taking his pet ferrets, Trickster and Zoe, for a walk. “And we got the money together and I just moved in maybe two weeks ago.”
The apartment is in north end Dartmouth and costs about $900 a month. Kay says the first thing he did after moving in was “take a shower, a clean shower.”
“It’s nice enough to have a stove again to be able to cook,” Kay says. “Feel safe enough to walk away and leave my animals at home, not have to worry about anything happening to them.”
While it may not be the height of luxury, Kay is ecstatic to have a roof over his head and have a shot at regaining partial custody of his 10-month old daughter. “I’m going to be closer to getting my kid back, so that’s nice,” he says, smiling.
It’s in stark contrast to Kay’s demeanour last month, the day after he was unceremoniously evicted from the Comfort Inn in Dartmouth along with other tenants.
“I was excited, and then all of the sudden by accident we find out that we’re out tomorrow,” he told The Coast on a sunny September afternoon at People’s Park (AKA Meagher Park, in Halifax at the corner of Chebucto Road and Dublin Street). “How can they give somebody so much hope and then just take it away like that?”
Kay told The Coast he felt “broken” and that the city had gotten his hopes up. “I was all hopeful I was going to go to Legal Aid and try to get custody of my child,” he explained. “I thought things were looking up.”
At the People’s Park just hours after leaving the hotel, Kay told The Coast he was grateful to P.A.D.S. and the other service providers who were working to resolve the situation.
“These people are amazing,” he said. “They’ll take care of me, I know they will. That’s why I came here, ‘cause I need the support.”
Now that he’s in a better situation himself, Kay is still spending time at the People’s Park, but as a friend and volunteer. “There’s still a lot of work to go, and there’s still a lot of people that need help too, that’s why I’m still showing up,” he says, with a fresh haircut and cleanly trimmed beard. “I’m part of P.A.D.S. now.”
Kay credits Shelter Nova Scotia with helping find the apartment itself, but says he’s not out of the woods yet because rent will eat up nearly all his income. He’s trying to get on a subsidized housing program that will put about $300 directly towards his rent every month.
“I got nothing,” he says. “But it takes time. I’m still just scraping by.”
Now that he’s been through the situation, Kay is looking back and realizing just how easy it was to fall into—and how hard it was to get out of. “It’s easy to end up on the street, it’s hard to get back on your feet,” he says. “With supports like that, you’ve just got to work together and be patient."