1. Were it not for COVID, “we probably would have got by for hundreds of years” with double rooms in nursing homes: deputy minister
Jennifer Henderson reports on Tuesday’s meeting of the legislature’s Health Committee, the first meeting in six months, to talk about the pandemic and preparedness.
Chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang told the committee, “all in all, we have fared well,” but other committee members had questions, including those around Northwood and other long-term care facilities that account for 53 of the province’s COVID-19 deaths.
Dartmouth North MLA Susan LeBlanc asked about measures being taken at nursing homes to prevent more outbreaks. Dr. Kevin Orrell, deputy minister of health responded with, “Long-term care in Canada — the standard of care — is such that without a pandemic, we probably would have got by for hundreds of years as it was… But the pandemic showed us these are very vulnerable people.”
LeBlanc pressed Orrell on the issue, and he said, “We know the (double and triple) occupancy itself may not be the issue. It’s more to do with the sharing of bathrooms.”
Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston asked if fewer shared rooms would have made a difference at Northwood, to which Strang replied, “I don’t think you can pin it on any one specific factor. It was the combination of a number of things. COVID has highlighted long-term care as an issue.”
2. Possible COVID-19 exposure at Canada Games Centre
Public Health sent out a news release on Tuesday asking anyone who went to the Canada Games Centre in late August to early September to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.
The dates for potential exposure to the virus were August 28, 29, 30 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and August 31 and September 1 from 5 p.m to 8 p.m.
According to the news release:
Public Health has been directly contacting anyone known to be a contact of the case involved. The risk of exposure is low, however, Public Health is asking patrons of the fitness centre to self-monitor for development of symptoms. It is anticipated anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the dates noted may develop symptoms up to, and including, 14 days from their last potential exposure.
3. New bikeway approved for north end, west end, complete with “jug handle”
Last night, the Halifax and West Community Council voted unanimously in favour of two new local street bikeways proposed for the north and west ends of the city. As Zane Woodford reports, HRM staff have been working on the plans for the last two years. The two bikeways were approved in principle as part of the Integrated Mobility Plan. Writes Woodford:
In the north end, the bikeway will connect Africville Lookoff Park at North Ridge Road to Almon Street.
From North Ridge Road to Leeds Street, staff proposed a multi-use pathway, separate from the road, for cyclists and pedestrians …
In the west end, the bikeway will run from the painted bike lane on Windsor Street down through Westmount, splitting down to the West End Mall on Mumford Road or over to Bayers Road.
The bikeways will include features like speed bumps and bump-outs, but also features new to Halifax like mini traffic circles.
The bikeway in the west end will also include a feature called a jug handle to help cyclists turn left from Windsor onto Liverpool. As Woodford explains:
The name makes sense looking at the photo below, where the bike lane curves around to the right, resembling the handle of a jug.
4. “I could win,” says third candidate for mayor
Nominations for the October municipal election closed at 5 p.m. Tuesday and there will be a third name on the ballot for mayor.
As Zane Woodford learns, Max Taylor is a 22-year-old in Halifax and popular on TikTok, a video app popular with people much, much younger than me.
Taylor joins current mayor Mike Savage and Coun. Matt Whitman in the mayoral run.
On his Facebook page, Taylor says, “My platform is simple: get out and vote. I don’t care who you vote for, I care that you vote. October 17th. Vote …. I could win.”
5. Staying at home for Back to School
Yesterday as thousands of kids returned to class after six months of at-home learning, there were some kids who stayed at home to learn. In this story, I talked with parents who decided to homeschool their children this school year. Justine Taylor Hyslop and Krystal Acker-West both registered to homeschool their children this year because of concerns around COVID-19. But their reasons were a bit different. Says Taylor Hyslop about her concerns for her 11-year-old twins:
The closer it got to school and the more I saw what the plan for school looked like I didn’t feel overly confident in there never being any risk of [COVID-19]. I don’t even know how they could accomplish that. I didn’t like rolling the dice with my kids knowing my son has such a weakened immune system and the new standard of how they would go back to school and the new procedures would be overwhelming for my daughter.
Acker-West, meanwhile, is homeschooling her son because she was worried about the mental health affects all the new protocols could have on children. Says Acker-West:
I know most people are worried about catching COVID. I’m not so much worried about that. I’m worried about the whole, ‘Here’s your box. Stay in it. Don’t touch anybody. You should be scared to touch anybody.’ I’m worried it’s going to put fear into the kids’ heads.
Registration for homeschooling closes on Sept. 20, so the Department of Education and Early Childhood development didn’t have specific numbers on how many children will be homeschooled this year. For the last school year, there were 1,500 children registered for homeschooling. I’m curious to see how those numbers will change for this school year.
I also talked with Leah Hemeon with the Nova Scotia Home Education Association and homeschooling parents Sue and Jeff Healy, who all say they’ve been answering questions from parents curious about homeschooling since the spring when schools closed.
6. Demolition likely for Queen Street properties denied heritage designation
A row of charming and colourful buildings on Queen Street are now up for sale and could be demolished. Earlier this year, Halifax regional council voted not to add the buildings to the city’s heritage registry. Zane Woodford takes a look at the listing from commercial real estate brokerage CBRE for 1525 Birmingham St., which advertises the “Queen & Birmingham project” as a development site. Writes Woodford:
It’s unclear exactly which properties are included in the sale, but based on a photo from the listing, the site appears to include 1520, 1526, 1528 and 1530 Queen St.
Back in March, Halifax regional council worried that adding the buildings to the heritage registry would impose the designation on the property owners. Woodford reported on that decision for Saltwire in March.
As of Sunday, there were no demolition permits issued for the property in the municipality’s building permit data.
1. Reaching out to people sleeping on the streets in HRM
One night this summer, Eric Jonsson and several colleagues counted the number of people sleeping on streets in the HRM. Tuesday, Aug. 25 was cloudy and drizzly. It had rained the night before. Jonsson, who works full time with the Navigator Street Outreach Program, was joined by two teams from partners, including Adsum for Women and Children, Welcome Housing and Support Services, the Sackville Area Warming Centre, and the North End Community Health Centre, which spread out to do the counts in downtown Halifax, Dartmouth, and Lower Sackville starting at 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. that day. Together, they counted 35 people sleeping outside. While this is the first time Jonsson says there was an official count, he says the number is higher than anecdotal evidence they have.
“This year is by far the worst I’ve seen it than any other year,” Jonsson says.
To take part in the survey, each person was asked a series of questions and was offered $20 or a $25 grocery store gift card.
Out of the 35, 10 people weren’t known to any local agency working with the homeless people in the city. Seven of those people were in Lower Sackville and one was in Dartmouth. Most of the people sleeping outside were in downtown Halifax.
“A lot of people come to where the services are during the day, but they might have a tent somewhere else in the suburbs because it’s safer,” Jonsson says.
These people are sleeping rough, usually in tents, under tarps, picnic tables, bridges, or trees, or on park benches. Some were sleeping in parking garages or in an abandoned school. One person was sleeping on piece of wood on top of two tires. Some people were sleeping in their cars. One person didn’t sleep at all, and walked the city all night. Out of the 35 people they counted, about 12 were female-identified, one person identified as non-binary, and the remainder identified as male. Thirty-four were Canadian citizens and none were veterans. Six were LGBTQ2S+, 11 were Indigenous, and three identified as having African ancestry.
“It’s not surprising that one-third of these people are Indigenous, but it’s terrible nonetheless,” says Jonsson, who’s been with the Navigator Outreach Program for two and a half years. “It’s consistent with other stats.”
The average time these people were homeless over the last year was 7.25 months. Some had been homeless for a few days. The average age was 41, while the oldest was 79, and the youngest was 21. Three people were over age 60, and three were younger than 25.
Jonsson shared all the details on his Twitter account (click here to see that thread).
The Navigator Street Outreach Program started in 2008 and Jonsson has worked there for two and a half years. He provides outreach to these clients and connects them to services in the city. He says he tries to focus on the people who aren’t staying in shelters and don’t have other supports.
“I feel like they are the ones falling through the cracks,” Jonsson says.
That outreach can include helping these people find places to live, but Jonsson says that’s getting tough to do.
“There are no places to live,” Jonsson says. “The vacancy rate is low and it’s even worse for affordable apartments,” Jonsson says. That’s especially true for people who live on fixed income like income assistance.
Jonsson says the COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to the number of people on the streets because local shelters reduced capacity to help with physical distancing protocols.
“Fifteen of the folks we talked to were willing to go to a shelter, but they said every time they call [the shelter] they’re full,” Jonsson says
But Jonsson says the answer isn’t more shelters. He says he knows there are more people sleeping outside who weren’t included in that count in August.
“[Shelters] are a band-aid for a band-aid solution,” Jonsson says. “We need deeply affordable housing for these people. We also need to provide more outreach services and more support for people living outside. Right now, a lot of the supports are geared toward people in shelter and there are very few supports for people living outside. In the report, I wanted to highlight there are people at shelter who really need help, but there are also at least 50 people sleeping people outside. We counted 35, but I went through the list that we had before we did the count and there were 12 people on that list we knew were homeless about that time, but we couldn’t track them down on the day we did the count. We know there are more people we don’t know about or didn’t list. At least 50 people are sleeping outside and there are very few supports for them right now.”
Nine of the people surveyed were on income assistance, three received CPP/Old Age, one person collected CPP disability, two people collected CERB, and one person only received GST.
But the majority of the people surveyed, 19 people, had no income whatsoever. Jonsson says he’d like to see the criteria for income assistance changed, so those people can get some money without an address. People who stay at shelters qualify for the monthly Standard Household Rate-Essentials of $280, but to qualify you need an address. Jonsson points out this is an easy policy change that could help give some of these people money each month.
“But if you’re sleeping outside, you don’t get anything,” Jonsson says. “That means you also don’t get a bus pass or prescription drug coverage. That’s one thing I’m trying to change.”
Jonsson says some of these people have bank accounts, or trustees, and he sees some every day, so there are ways to get money to them.
“I have to bring it up and say, ‘Don’t forget about these folks,’” he says.
With the colder weather, Jonsson says about half the people they talked to will likely go back to bad situations just to get out of the cold. He says that applies to the females, many of whom are sex workers, who will live with abusive pimps or johns.
“In a lot of cases, it’s super unsafe, but it’s less unsafe than sleeping outside,” Jonsson says.
A lot of the men are involved with sex work, too, but they will also stay in unsafe situations.
Jonsson says they hope to do a count again in six months and see what the numbers are in the winter.
“Hopefully, in a few years we’ll have data — not great data, but some data — on homelessness, and if we’re doing anything that’s working,” he says.
In his Twitter thread on the count from that night, Jonsson shares that he helped a client buy new furniture and groceries for their new apartment. It was one success in his work.
Jonsson says the city needs more affordable housing, like public housing and housing through non-profits. Rent subsidies could help, too, although he says landlords are discriminatory and they won’t take certain clients.
“Even if you can find a place that’s affordable for a $900 rent sub, the landlord can still discriminate against clients, especially the clients who sleep outside because they have a lot of barriers,” he says. “They struggle with their mental health often, they might struggle with addiction, or they have a bad history of living outside, they don’t know how to live on their own. Rent subsidies work for some people. A lot of these people who face these barriers, they’ll just get turned down by landlords all the time.”
“We need non-private landlords and non-market solutions,” Jonsson says. “We need public housing and non-profit housing run in a well-regulated way so that we give people a shot. I know it’s expensive but it’s what we need.”
A video taken by Tari Ajadi went viral on Twitter on Tuesday. Ajadi, who is a PhD student at Dalhousie University, was at the Local Jo Cafe & Market on Oxford Street with colleague, J. Nicole Arsenault, when the incident happened. Ajadi says the two were having coffee when they were approached by a white man. Ajadi tells Global News:
We were talking about our research and he came around the corner and he addressed us by saying that a white girl like her [his colleague] shouldn’t be around Negroes like me.
Ajadi then started filming the man and then shared the video to Twitter. Click here to watch the entire video.
Ajadi tells Global he filmed the video and shared it online to educate people about the racism people of colour face in the city.
It’s about a city that exists to marginalize Black people. It’s about the massive economic and health inequities that currently exist. It’s about the epidemic of police brutality that exists. That’s the problem.
Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda here.
Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, virtual meeting) — the committee will consider a six-storey building dubbed “The Governor” at the corner of Hollis and Bishop Streets.
Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm) — virtual meeting, agenda here.
Public Accounts (9-11am, Province House) — Tim hopes to report on the proceedings.
Ready2Launch Demo Day (Thursday, 2:30pm) — Eight Dalhousie start-up teams will present a four-minute pitch, with a top prize of $5,000 to the best one. Virtual event; more info and sign up here on HopIn.
A “Night‑In” with Eco‑Justice Warriors (Thursday, 7:30pm) — virtual fundraiser with Environmental Defence and The ENRICH Project, with online conversations from women at the frontlines of Canada’s eco-justice struggles, many featured in the documentary film There’s Something in the Water. Author and keynote speaker Dr. Ingrid Waldron will share her research on the hidden truth of environmental racism in rural Canada and how industrial catastrophes have been precisely placed – all in remote, low income and very often Indigenous or Black communities – proving that your postal code can determine your health.
Tickets $25, more info here.
Business Continuity Roundtable (Wednesday, 11am) — a virtual webinar with Daniel Rogers and Jonathan Sharpe of Supplement King, and Breagh Matheson from the Sobey Prosperity Network; they’ll discuss “Coping with COVID-19: An SME Business Continuity Roundtable with Supplement King.” Might not be too late to register.
In the harbour
01:00: Yantian Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
05:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
05:00: Dalian Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
05:00: Macao Strait, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Setubal, Portugal
05:30: Grande Baltimora, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Valencia, Spain
11:45: Macao Strait sails for Mariel, Cuba
12:00: Selfoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
12:00: Maersk Palermo, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
12:30: Grande Baltimora sails for sea
15:00: CMA CGM Brazil, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
19:00: Selfoss sails for Portland
20:00: Asterix, replenishment vessel, moves from Irving Oil to Dockyard
21:00: Dalian Express sails for Dubai
I guess we’re a world-class city now because a lot of people can’t afford to live here.