First occupants move into Dartmouth modular shelters

Sunday was a day months in the making, as volunteers with the Out of the Cold Community Association put the finishing touches inside the emergency modular units that will eventually house 26 people.

Making the beds, hanging hooks, and filling up soap dispensers – the volunteers were busy doing what they could to make the shelters feel more like a home.

“And tomorrow once folks are all moved in, we're going to have a ‘store’ so they can pick out two pieces of art that they like for their room, and brand-new socks,” says Chloe Budd, housing coordinator for the Association.

“We've been working hard, there's been so many components, so many moving parts,” says Budd, “I think it's going to feel like a huge relief for people who've been sleeping precariously for a really long time, but also sleeping in the arena, which has been tough.”

The association - and the people it has been helping – moved out of the Gray Arena this afternoon – after using it as a temporary shelter this winter.

The provincial government has awarded the association a $2.7 million contract to deliver supportive housing services to occupants at the Dartmouth modular site for the next two years.

“We're going to have programs in the kitchen, we're going to continue our life skills program, and we'll also have an art therapist come in once a week which is very exciting,” says Budd.

A fully accessible unit, which will house two people, is yet to be completed, as is the site kitchen. That means the association still needs volunteers help to provide three meals a day at the Church St. location.

The city is planning a similar modular site in Halifax, behind the Centennial Pool. That part of the project is intended to house another 38 people but isn’t expected to be ready until late March.

The budget for all the modular units is now $4.9 million.

“It’s not a good time to be staying outside,” says Drew Moore, a volunteer with the P.A.D.S Community Network, which assists those without a home in the city.

But according to the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, there are more than 450 people in the city without a place to live.

That’s why Moore says both the city and the province need to act more quickly on the housing crisis.

He’d like to see the city’s warming centre given the resources to open more frequently throughout the winter, rather than waiting for the threshold of -15 degrees or 25 centimeters of snow or more.

Moore also says progress on long-term solutions is overdue.

“People who are unhoused right now need housing, and not just any housing but we do need housing that is permanent, that is accessible, that is dignified, and that is safe," he said.