n Tuesday, Halifax Regional Municipality released a statement that confirmed it will do what it’s been threatening for weeks—remove temporary shelters located on municipal property.
“A deadline date of July 13, 2021 has been given to remove the shelters–failing which, the shelters, and any personal items contained within the shelters, will be removed by the municipality on or shortly after this date without further notice,” says the statement
, which doesn’t have any names attached.
The statement cites By-Law P-600 Section 8(2) as the official reason for removal. This bylaw prohibits “camping” in a park and states “No person shall erect or place in a park anything for the purpose of temporary or permanent accommodation without permission.”
Erin DiCarlo, a public affairs advisor for HRM, tells The Coast that 11 shelters will be removed in total, and that five people have already accepted a “temporary housing solution.”
However, the city couldn’t tell The Coast what these temporary housing solutions include, directing questions to the provincial government. The province says these options include "shelters as well as accessing housing programs including rapid rehousing" but did not give specifics.
Early in the pandemic, the province moved several people from temporary housing or shelters into hotels
, a move that was praised for COVID prevention. But it was only a short-term solution and ended in June 2020, forcing people back into precarious housing situations.
“The reality is, there’s no reason for anyone to be out on the streets,” one former crisis shelter resident told The Coast in June
. “I’d like to think that we consider ourselves a modernized country. But how primitive is it that I spent six months here in Halifax during the winter on the streets because there’s no such thing as affordable housing?”
hile tensions remain high after city councillors spoke out of turn
about the issue last month, the Halifax Mutual Aid society—which helped construct the shelters—says it doesn't plan to remove them by the deadline.
“We can not in good conscience put people in a worse situation than they are currently,” says a statement from the group. “HMA does not intend to remove crisis shelters until there is no longer an urgent need for them.”
If occupants are still in temporary shelters on that day, it’s unclear what moves HRM could take. DiCarlo says “we are optimistic that, in collaboration with the province and community-based partners—including Street Outreach Navigators and Housing Support Workers—occupants will accept the supports offered to them.”
Spokesperson for Halifax Mutual Aid Campbell McClintock tells The Coast that the city didn't communicate with the group, but he worries police could get involved with an eviction.
"Absolutely that's a fear," McClintock says. "We saw what happened in Toronto at the Trinity Bellwood camps. That was a very forceful eviction of people who not only had made their homes there but established a community where they looked out for one another and supported one another."
McClintock says if the occupants are moved into hotels, there are problems that come along with that, as well. "It's not a space that they can call their own, and they have to abide by very arbitrary rules and be subject to frequent police visits."
The reason the city parks are being cleared out in the first place is because HRM believes the shelters "encroach upon the rights of others,” even though housing itself is a human right.
“The public has a right to use and enjoy the entirety of municipal parks— not just the portions not otherwise occupied by temporary shelters and tents,” says DiCarlo.
But if parks truly are for all people, Halifax Mutual Aid feels this also includes the most vulnerable in our society.
“HMA encourages all levels of government to pursue housing first solutions working directly with the growing homeless population,” says the group’s statement. “This issue affects human beings, members of our communities who deserve dignity and respect.”
When it comes down to it, McClintock says that HRM is dismissing the humanity of the people living in these shelters and valuing some people's rights over others.
"If they're referring to wealthy people in these in downtown areas," says McClintock, "who just don't want to believe or see that homeless people exist—if that's really encroaching upon their rights, I think we need to reassess what our values are."