Modular units are here, but still so far away
Despite the city's promise back in October to provide dozens of modular housing units “before the snow flies,” the Dartmouth modulars are still not inhabited. But if you walk or drive by the corner of Alderney Drive and Flotilla Lane, you’ll see the narrow, grey-sided buildings as they near completion.
They’re arranged in an E shape, providing three courtyard areas between the six interconnected buildings that will house 26 people. From outside the fence that surrounds the units, they look complete. But two men in construction hats and reflective vests plodding in and out of various units denote otherwise.
Designated service provider Out of the Cold’s executive director Michelle Malette says the group doesn’t have possession of the shelters just yet, so no one can move in. At this point, Friday Jan 7 is the date OTC has been given by the construction crews on site, but realistically, Malette says “we don’t expect to be in before mid-month.”
As for communication from the municipality, the most recent update came pre-holiday break on December 17. This followed an invite-only meeting held by councillor Waye Mason on Dec 16, where Erica Fleck said units were again delayed—the Dartmouth units to “late December, early January” and the Halifax units until at least early February.
When The Coast asked for an update on Dec 31, an HRM spokesperson said, “We will be issuing an update next week and will be happy to respond to your follow-up questions at that time.”
Friendship Centre shelter closes
Despite a well-attended “save the shelter” rally on Dec 17, the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre’s shelter officially closed as of Dec 31.
Sources say 33 of the 34 residents are being temporarily housed at the DoubleTree hotel on Wyse Road, currently paid for by the provincial government, using the funding that would’ve gone to the MNFC to run the shelter, as the provincial government announced in late December.
The closure has also left 20 frontline shelter workers out of a job, after a unionization drive the workers say caused executives to shut down the shelter. A union vote is still reportedly upcoming and former employees say a labour complaint was filed.
What's new at People’s Park
The People’s Park is continuing to winterize as cold and wet weather persists, permeating thin tent walls. A “wet, muddy nightmare,” is how Laura, a volunteer, described the situation. “People here are not very happy, they’re not doing very well, they’re getting through the day but it’s freezing cold. And when it’s not freezing cold it’s pouring rain” she tells The Coast on a one-degree Celsius afternoon at the park in early January, as four residents warm their hands over the park’s new fire pit.
“There was a fire pit that a resident put together,” says Laura. “Which was quite good but not exactly to code.” So when nearby homeowners called the fire department, the responders “actually purchased a fire pit and brought it here.”
Residents and volunteers are also building a temporary wooden floor reminiscent of a deck, in the large central kitchen tent where food and clothing donations are kept, and are working to lift all remaining tents off the ground with wooden pallets. Most nights there are six to eight residents living at the park, and the most-needed items include firewood, meal supplements, hand warmers and batteries.
One of the city government’s newest jobs—housing and homelessness administrator—is now vacant. Erica Fleck, whose main role is being the municipality’s emergency management coordinator, completed her three-month term in the position as of December 20. The city now offers Paul Johnston in external relations as the best person to receive inquiries for the housing and homelessness administrator, and HRM didn’t respond when The Coast asked whether anyone will replace Fleck in the role.
Did Fleck’s term accomplish anything? We’ll leave it up to you to decide whether she administered more “housing” or “homelessness” over those 90-odd days. Highlights include that promise about modular units arriving before the snow (see above) and refusing to answer questions from media and residents alike.