Nova Scotia

First residents move into modular housing units in Dartmouth

Twenty-four people have officially moved into the emergency modular home units on Church Street near Alderney Drive.

'People are really excited about real beds and a place to hang your clothes,' says on-site staff member

The modular housing units on Alderney Drive near Church Street in Dartmouth. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

After four months of planning by the Halifax Regional Municipality, 24 people seeking shelter at an arena now have safe, warm spaces to call their own.

Residents officially moved into their new modular housing units at a site in Dartmouth on Sunday.

"People are really excited about real beds and a place to hang your clothes and all these things that they haven't had for ages," said Chloe Budd, a member of the on-site staff and housing co-ordinator for community association Out of the Cold.

The residents had been staying at the Gerald B. Gray Memorial Arena in Dartmouth while waiting for the units to be ready.

Budd said it's been an emotional and chaotic week getting everyone moved into the units on Alderney Drive near Church Street, but she's grateful to have been one of the first staff members to give residents their new keys.

"I got to let people into their rooms for the first time," said Budd. "They came in and looked at the room, and we had all these twinkly lights turned on before they came in and we tried to make it feel as homey as possible, and people were really excited to have their own keys, for sure."

More units coming

The units are the first of 62 being installed in HRM; 36 units are expected to be ready for residents in Halifax by mid-March.

Budd said the Dartmouth site has 24-hour staff coverage in place to assist residents. Case managers have also been assigned to help residents access services they may be unfamiliar with.

"They [case workers] are the main support for that one person," said Budd. "They can go to their case manager with questions about income assistance or just like generally, how to start living in this space and how to gain some life skills that they haven't had the opportunity to have in a while."

Wraparound services including meal plans as well as art therapy and harm reduction programs will be offered.

Right now, there are 24 units furnished with a desk and bed. Two accessible units will be up and running in a couple of weeks, said Budd. A kitchen unit is expected to be ready in the next six weeks.

An 'impressive' feat

Sam Austin, the councillor for Dartmouth Centre, said he's pleased to see what the city has achieved in terms of modular homes in only a few months.

"It is the most rapid housing project going. In four months' time, we've added 24 — soon to be 26 — new, indoor supported spaces in the municipality, and that's pretty damn impressive," he said.

Austin said he thinks this housing will make a big difference in the lives of many, saying while there is excellent work being done by shelter providers in town, the modular homes provide something different than a traditional shelter setting.

"You've got that dignity in that privacy of space … this is a higher level of privacy, a higher level of autonomy than many of these folks have been offered at all," he said.

An encampment for people experiencing homelessness in HRM. More modular units are expected to be completed within the next few months in the parking lot of the Centennial Pool in Halifax. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Austin said the people now housed at the Dartmouth location represent a fraction of those with a desperate need for secure housing in HRM. He said more work needs to be done going forward.

"First and foremost, the province needs to get back into this. The recent [Nova Scotia Affordable] Housing Commission report has a lot of good actions in there," said Austin.

"It's a good first step, but I personally don't think we're going to solve this unless the government takes to it with the relish that we used to have."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Feleshia Chandler is a journalist based in Halifax. She loves helping people tell their stories and has interests in issues surrounding LGBTQ+ people as well as Black, Indigenous and people of colour. You can reach her at feleshia.chandler@cbc.ca.

With files from Gareth Hampshire

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