Finding shelter: Halifax council meets to discuss allowing tents in public parks

Halifax Regional Council is meeting Tuesday evening about the report that recommends allowing tents in public parks as a temporary solution to homeless.

Over the dinner-hour, the city’s mayor and councillors listened to a staff presentation about allowing tenting in some municipal parks.

Several councillors are urging the province to become part of the solution, and they’re asking staff to look at non-park properties for consideration.

“I think it’s a great idea because there’s a lot of people that are homeless and this is a pretty good place for them to go and I see a lot of people especially around this neighbourhood and from around the city that are literally sleeping anywhere,” said frequent park user Holly Billard.

The chosen sites are located throughout the municipality. They’ll be designated for either overnight or long-term stays.

“There are people that need to have a place to lay their head at night so I think that they should be at least given the chance,” said area resident Tara White.

The city is considering the proposal despite housing falling under provincial jurisdiction. Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston was asked about the proposal on Tuesday following his State of the Province address.

“In terms of the municipality making very specific very, specific decisions like that, that’s for them to make. We’ll be there to support Nova Scotians where we can but we respect the municipality’s decision on that,” said Houston.

Issues of enforcement and safety are sticking points for some councillors, but for residents like Holly Billard, shelter should come first.

“I think it’s a safer idea for people that are homeless, for them to have a designated space because they need safety too right?” added Billard.

The staff proposal to identify certain parks in the city comes after a housing advocacy group asked that all public parks be open for pitching a tent.