New report outlines how Halifax can help hundreds of its homeless

Halifax Regional Council is considering a staff report that recommends allowing people who don’t have a place to live to stay overnight in tents in city parks.

They’ve come up with a list of 16 locations throughout the municipality where shelters could be set up.

In Dartmouth, the stocked lake at Penhorn Park is one of the recommended sites.

“I think it’s a good idea because it gives the homeless a place to stay and it’s a good place, and they have restrooms right over there,” says angler Christopher Fawcett.

The restrooms are one of the drawing cards. The parks will be designated for either overnight or long-term stays. Overnighters will be allowed to tent between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. while long-term sites will have limits on the number of tents allowed at one time.

The proposal doesn’t sit well with Halifax Deputy Mayor Pam Lovelace who says it’s unclear who will enforce the park rules. There are also questions around ensuring those using the parks are the ones who have no other place to go.

“How do we determine who is permitted to stay in the park. We would end up seeing folks who are coming down to party and not have to pay for a hotel or an Airbnb or stay on a friends couch. They could just camp in a park,” Lovelace says.

Homeless advocate Victoria Levack doesn’t like the proposal either.

“They’re talking about doing designated sites but these designated sites, many of them are in the middle of nowhere, one of them is in a food desert that we know of. As far as we’re aware, meals will not be provided at these sites,” says Levack.

According to the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, there are 562 people in Halifax who don’t have a place to live.

“Many people moved, housing is a commodity and it became even more so during the last two years,” says the organization’s director of community housing, Claudia Jahn.

The staff proposal will be presented to counsel Tuesday at Halifax City Hall.