40 new shelter beds coming to Halifax, filling hole left by COVID-19
Provincial funding agreements stretch to the end of 2021
Two Halifax non-profits are preparing to open 40 new beds by the end of this month for people experiencing homelessness, making up for what was lost earlier this year because of COVID-19 restrictions.
In the city's north end, the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre will offer 25 beds designated for Indigenous men and women.
Executive director Pam Glode Desrochers said if ever there's an empty bed and a non-Indigenous person needs it, they won't be turned away — but she doesn't expect that to happen any time soon.
"I don't think it's going to be a challenge to fill, unfortunately," Glode Desrochers said in an interview.
According to the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, there were just shy of 500 homeless people in Halifax last week. Of those, 374 were chronically homeless, and Black and Indigenous people were overrepresented in the mix.
When COVID arrived in the province, shelters had no choice but to reduce capacity to allow for physical distancing.
Glode Desrochers said her organization recognized the need for Indigenous housing support long ago and has been trying to open a shelter like this one since 2013.
"This is a gift that was given to us," she said of the funding agreement with the province that's supporting the new shelter space. The agreement lasts until the end of 2021.
Glode Desrochers said the leased space, which will be in the former Taoist Tai Chi Society building on North Park Street, is a stopgap until her organization has its own building on College Street.
That development was just granted funding through the federal Rapid Housing Initiative and funnelled through the Halifax Regional Municipality.
Last month, regional council announced it would split more than $8 million among three permanent affordable-housing projects to be completed by March 2022.
Glode Desrochers said she expects to transition people from the North Park shelter to the new building as soon as it's built.
15 beds on Barrington Street
The North End Community Health Centre also signed a one-year agreement with the province to create 15 new beds in a building on Barrington Street.
Executive director Marie-France LeBlanc said one year of government support is "a good first step."
"It allows us to spend some time in this next year working with our various partners to come up with more permanent solutions," LeBlanc said in an interview.
Each client will have their own private room with a microwave and fridge, and there will be support staff on hand daily. It's a setup LeBlanc described as transitional housing, rather than a traditional shelter.
She declined to give the exact location of the shelter because the lease agreement is still being finalized.
The North End Community Health Centre also won some of Halifax's rapid housing funding, which it's using to renovate a house on Maitland Street to create a shared housing project with 10 to 11 bedrooms.
Units in the Maitland Street project will be designated for Black men, while the transitional housing project on Barrington Street will be open to a broader population.
LeBlanc said staff from the community health centre and others involved in street outreach will designate the beds on Barrington Street based on need; it's the same way the Out of the Cold shelter is filling its new winter shelter, also on Barrington Street.
In total, the province is contributing up to $1.7 million for the two projects.