Early Tuesday morning, several shelter residents in downtown Halifax awoke to learn that this provincial election day may also double as their eviction date. Thirty-four days after the city’s original July 13 deadline for shelter removal, police and bylaw officers have begun to serve eviction notices to several people living in crisis shelters and tents in public parks across the city.
“Some were told directly that forcible removals could begin today,” says a tweet from Halifax Mutual Aid. “Others just found notices duct taped to what little shelter they have.”
One resident is now afraid that the police will damage her and her two friends’ belongings or even attack her if she offers up any resistance. “In the current times that we’re living in, I think they should just let us ride free,” says Chewy, who lives in a tent shelter by the public washrooms on the Halifax Common. “It is what it is; there are other shady places around, but we didn’t cause any problems here.”
UPDATE@hfxgov has been sending police & bylaw officers to serve eviction notices to people living in crisis shelters & tents. Some were told directly that forcible evictions could begin today. Others just found notices duct taped to what little shelter they have. pic.twitter.com/6DQkD0OaTL— MutualAidHFX (@MutualAidHfx) August 17, 2021
The original eviction statement cited By-Law P-600 Section 8(2) as the official reason for removal; today’s notices do the same. The bylaw prohibits “camping” in a park and states that “no person shall erect or place in a park anything for the purpose of temporary or permanent accommodation without permission.
Halifax Mutual Aid tweeted that in enabling this action, both the mayor and city councillors like Waye Mason are breaking their promises to citizens, in addition to “using violence to tear away what little shelter & safety people forced onto the street have.”
“What do we do?” tweeted the group this morning. “The only thing that's clear is that ‘evicting’ people without homes isn't remotely moral (let alone ‘empathetic’).”
Mason did not respond to The Coast’s request for an interview, and the city hasn’t issued any sort of statement on today’s actions.
controlled by the province rather than the city, and with councillors joining other members of the community in calling for provincial help to fix the housing crisis, it’s not surprising that housing is an election issue. Of the three main parties, only the NDP has committed to permanent rent control, while promising a four-year building boom of 1,000 new affordable housing units. “Vote for rent control” has even become an NDP slogan, prominently attached to candidates’ signs.
While many shelter residents acknowledge that they don’t pay rent and the land isn’t theirs, there is still a lot of confusion surrounding why such aggressive action is considered necessary. “We’re harmless in this tent,” says Chewy. “We’re good people, we just don’t have the cards everyone else has.”
The eviction notices state that “street outreach navigators and housing support workers would continue to engage with shelter residents to offer resources and support,” as well as assistance with locating temporary and permanent housing. There is no further information into what this support entails or whether the housing that is mentioned is the hotel accommodations that were previously suggested.
HMA is currently looking for volunteers who may be interested in building and defending shelters in the coming weeks. If you can’t get involved directly, the organization asks that you consider donating snacks or backpacks.