The municipality has officially asked Halifax Regional Police to remove unhoused people from Meagher Park, but it’s unclear when police will move in.
Maggie MacDonald, executive director of parks and recreation, made the request to Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella in a letter dated Wednesday, posted online Thursday evening.
“I do not believe further civilian efforts will result in the park being vacated, as such I am asking your help to enforce the relevant provisions of the Municipal Parks By-law and the Protection of Property Act as set out in the notice,” MacDonald wrote.
“Between now, and when you enforce, we will continue to work to ensure supports are provided to those sheltering in the park. We will also be available to coordinate with you so that, when you enforce, supports are available to those experiencing homelessness including supports such as transportation to a designated site or other accommodation, and connection to service providers. We will also be available to confirm, prior to enforcement, that adequate spaces are available either in a housing option or at a designated outdoor site.”
The request comes after a special meeting of regional council, when MacDonald and Kinsella, along with chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé and special projects manager Max Chauvin publicly briefed council on the issue, as the Halifax Examiner reported on Tuesday.
Meagher Park, known to people living in tents there as People’s Park, is the city’s most popular unsanctioned tent site, and since early July, HRM has been trying to get people to move out. Without “voluntary compliance,” as HRM calls it, it’s moving to “involuntary compliance.”
Police, who last year indiscriminately pepper-sprayed protesters in the street, urged people to remain peaceful in a news release Thursday evening:
The health and safety conditions in Meagher Park have declined, putting many individuals in an increasingly vulnerable situation. Halifax Regional Municipality issued a notice to close the park on July 5, 2022 and provided a transition period until July 17, 2022.
Earlier efforts have not resulted in the park being cleared. The municipality’s ongoing efforts to support people experiencing homelessness have included providing additional supports and alternative arrangements, including to those at this location. Efforts continue to be made to allow occupants to voluntarily vacate and remove their belongings from the municipal property.
We have an obligation to protect the public safety of all involved – and urge efforts towards a safe exit.
That release, and HRM’s online update, included a story to drive their point home. They say police were called in earlier this week after park residents “obstructed” firefighters trying to extinguish an illegal campfire.
In its update, HRM says there are spaces available at some of its designated tent sites. As of 11am on Wednesday, HRM says there was capacity for 11 more tents along Barrington Street green space, three at Lower Flinn Park, and eight at Green Road Park in Dartmouth, which is currently empty.
The update also says a tent was set on fire at Green Road Park last week.
“Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency was called to the scene to extinguish the fire and the individual who had been sheltering at that location was not hurt in the incident. The cause of the fire is under investigation.”