One of the shelters being removed from Victoria Park on Friday morning. — Photo: Halifax Mutual Aid/Twitter Credit: Halifax Mutual Aid/Twitter

The municipality has removed three of Halifax Mutual Aid’s shelters from parks days before its own stated deadline.

The municipality removed the shelters on Friday — one from Crathorne Park on Jamieson Street in Dartmouth, one from Victoria Park on South Park Street, and one from Raymond Taavel Park at the corner of Inglis and Barrington streets.

“One shelter was occupied by someone who … [was] never offered any housing options by the city. They were at work when their shelter was removed,” Halifax Mutual Aid said in a post on Twitter.

“The other shelter was damaged by a third party and set to be removed for repairs by Halifax Mutual Aid 24 hours from when the city acted.”

The group asked people to keep an eye on the shelters in their neighbourhood, and said it would announce when it needs “the community to rally with us in their defence.”

On a rainy day, two crisis shelters and two tents are seen on grass outside a sandstone building. The shelter on the left is white with a small window on the visible side, covered in Tyvek house wrap painted with a black grid. In the centre, there's another shelter, with a wooden door with three small windows. Next to that shelter, there's a red and grey tent. In front of the red and grey tent there's a blue and grey tent. To the right, a woman wearing a three-quarter length coat and carrying a green reusable grocery bag walks by talking on a cellphone on speaker.
Two of Halifax Mutual Aid’s shelters and two tents outside the old Halifax Memorial Library on Friday. — Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

The municipality announced on Tuesday that it was giving residents one week to remove their belongings and leave and giving Halifax Mutual Aid one week to remove the shelters before it would do so.

That process started four days early.

In a statement released after 5pm on Friday, the municipality said its deadline “was not a commitment by the municipality to refrain from removal of the temporary shelters prior to this date – rather, it was a notification that the shelters must be vacated by occupants and removed by those who installed them no later than July 13.”

“Whenever an occupant vacates a temporary shelter – prior to, or as of the deadline of July 13 – the municipality will take steps to remove the vacant shelter in as timely a manner as possible,” the statement said.

The municipality claims all three shelters were vacant. It said the occupant of the shelter in Dartmouth “accepted temporary accommodations offered by the province,” and that the other two were simply empty and that they’d placed locks on them on Wednesday.

A patch of dead grass in a park is seen on a rainy day, with the tread marks of some kind of machinery leading away from the patch. In the background there are cars parked on a street in front of a brick building.
The spot in Victoria Park along South Park Street where one of Halifax Mutual Aid’s shelters stood until Friday morning, with tracks leading away from it. — Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

As noted above, Halifax Mutual Aid said the occupant of the shelter in Victoria Park was at work when the municipality removed the shelter. Campbell McClintock, external spokesperson for the group, said in an interview Friday evening that the resident had recently moved into the shelter.

“People work, people have relations and people that they visit. So [the city] knocking on the door as a method of verifying whether or not somebody lives there is not sufficient,” McClintock said. “And as a result, there are people that have lost a space to live.”

McClintock said there are still 21 people on a waitlist looking to move into one of the shelters. As of Tuesday, the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia placed the number of people currently homeless in HRM at 352.

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. Like many I guess I am not surprised that HRM stealthfully removed those temporary homeless shelters provided by others that HRM should have supported in first place. HRM seems to be very adept in stealthy actions as history testifies.

    It is after all the start of tourist season and we certainly can’t have tangible visual evidence of councils’ lack of response to the lack of affordable housing in HRM. A situation created through inattention, buck passing and quite frankly a lack of compassion for the people impacted by this housing crisis. A situation further complicated by the very visible power wielded by developers over council to get what the developer wants and not necessarily that which benefits the community overall.

    I do not blame past councils or the individuals presently on council they are merely the players and their parts have long ago been scripted.

    In my humble opinion this system of governance is most of the problem. It is for these modern times inept, antiquated and needs review and refinement.

  2. Disgusting! What a waste of shelters making harder for those already hardpressed to have some sense of caring w/ a roof over their heads! How do these people stay in office??? Barbaric!

  3. ” Between Adams and Shantz, there have been other cases in British Columbia dealing with similar issues. In Johnston v Victoria (City), 2011 BCCA 400, the Court of Appeal rejected the argument that it was unconstitutional to prohibit shelters during daytime hours. Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation v Williams, 2014 BCSC 1926, was an application by the City for an injunction involving a group of individuals who took up shelter in Oppenheimer Park . The case is important for local governments, as the court commented that the government has the responsibility to show that enforcement of parks bylaws will not translate to ousting homeless people onto the streets with the effect of placing them in further danger. The court did grant the injunction, but included obligations on the City to ensure that there was an orderly transition from the Park to shelter beds. In that case, there were already enough shelter beds available for the number of homeless involved.”

    and from the same source : ” Ultimately, the judge concluded that the best balance between the needs of the homeless and those of the City was to allow temporary shelters to be set up from the times of 7:00pm to 9:00am, to be taken down during the day. One of the factors for not allowing the camp to remain during the day was the dangerous conditions created by having a permanently established camp.

    One thing the judge strongly considered ordering was that specific park land be designated for use by the homeless as it would provide some certainty for them and residents of the City, taking into account proximity of public parks to services for the homeless. However, this was not ordered as the judge felt that such a decision should be left to politicians to make and not the courts.”

  4. Here’s the email I sent to my own district councillor:

    Homelessness is indeed a crisis in our community, but the municipality’s disregard for the wellbeing of homeless individuals sadly suggests a reason for how this issue has become so severe.

    The chief administrative officer, Jacques Dubé, previously stated on 24 January that the Halifax regional municipality would ‘never “evict” homeless people from a temporary shelter’ (scare quotes his) yet the municipal statement issued on 6 July appears to contradict this. Evicting homeless individuals in the name of ‘public safety’ – as the statement reads – is a morally repugnant excuse that does nothing to improve the living conditions of those who are without shelter in our community.

    Since the municipality perceives temporary shelters to be inadequate housing – as they no doubt are – then the municipality ought to ensure that anyone who makes use of these shelters first secures adequate, long-term housing. I am sure I am not alone in recognizing that the municipality’s current promise of ‘working to ensure … temporary accommodation option[s] that can bridge to permanent housing’ is so meaningless as to be insulting.

    Simply put, the municipality is not in a place to lecture community organizations for their efforts to mitigate our community’s housing crisis. If the municipality truly believes that ‘all residents deserve a home’, as stated on its website, then community organizations should be commended for their efforts to provide means of shelter, whether the municipality deems the results tasteful or not.

    Moreover, long-term housing must be made available to all residents in need regardless of their ability to pay, as Halifax Mutual Aid has argued. Claims of a lack of funds, inciting fear over ‘public safety’ and finger-pointing over jurisdictional issues are all inappropriate excuses.

    Despite the municipality’s sanctimonious rhetoric, the fact remains that some people in our community still don’t have access to shelter. Halifax seems fond of making land acknowledgements that quite rightly recognize the shared nature of our territory, yet invokes by-laws to exclude those who cannot otherwise secure even a basic necessity like shelter from ‘municipal property’. This cannot continue.

    Housing is indeed a human right, and one of the most fundamental human rights.The municipality’s assertion that some homeless individuals’ only means of shelter ‘encroach[es] upon the rights of others’ is arrogant, wrong-headed and frankly despicable. I would strongly encourage the municipality to stop its belligerent approach towards homeless encampments and to avoid making further specious justifications for its mistreatment of homeless individuals.

    1. That’s an excellent letter! I think you should forward a copy of same to every HRM councilor and, of course, the mayor. I fully agree that housing is a human right and every human being has the right to a safe, secure, and private place to lay their head at night. All three levels of government *MUST* come together to solve the lack of affordable housing. They have to stop passing the buck between the different levels and changing the plans each and every time we have another election.

      1. I should add: please feel free to copy and paste or adapt the letter if anyone wants to send their own!

  5. I have emailed Pamela Lovelace and her reply “Hi Bronwen, thanks for your email. This news article contains false information. Provincial staff housed the individual and the shed was empty.
    Pam” So something needs to be clarified here

    1. I believe only one individual accepted alternative housing options and multiple units have been removed/destroyed.

  6. Whoa, Mr. Savage et al. Didn’t you run as the leader who’d bring people together to address/fix racial injustice and affordable housing? Do all politicians have really short memories? And resort to tactics that undermine expected responses from citizens?