Nova Scotia

Halifax removes 3 emergency shelters before eviction deadline

Halifax has started removing emergency shelters days before the eviction deadline of July 13. Two temporary shelters on municipal property were "determined to be vacant" and taken down on Friday, but some say one of the shelters was still occupied.

2 shelters in Halifax, 1 in Dartmouth were removed by HRM Friday

The city of Halifax has begun removing temporary shelters on municipal property ahead of a July 13 deadline. This shelter outside the old Halifax library on Spring Garden Road is one of two still standing and occupied on Saturday. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

The city of Halifax has started removing emergency shelters days before the eviction deadline of July 13 it issued earlier this week.

At the former library on Spring Garden Road, two shelters remained standing on Saturday.

One of the occupants, Myles Haight, said this was his last weekend in his shelter as he'd accepted temporary housing in a local hotel.

While Haight said he is skeptical about moving to the hotel, he planned to make the best of wherever he is placed.

"I'm hopeful that this could be a journey on the road to something better in the future," Haight said.

He added that the shelters have been "very helpful" for him, and have allowed him to meet people in the community who are supportive.

Myles Haight has been living in a crisis shelter at the former Halifax library on Spring Garden Road. He will move to temporary housing in a hotel on Monday, the day before they city's deadline for shelters on municipal land to come down. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

When asked about the city removing shelters, Haight said it doesn't feel right.

"They have the right to their own protection … in a public housing crisis during a global pandemic," Haight said.

A number of the shelters were built by the volunteer group Halifax Mutual Aid. The small structures have steel roofs and plywood walls covered with weather-resistant house wrap.

Three temporary shelters located on municipal property were "determined to be vacant" and taken down on Friday, according to a release from the city.

In Dartmouth's Crathorne Park, the city said the shelter occupant had accepted temporary accommodations offered by the province.

For both Victoria and Raymond Taavel parks in Halifax, the city said it considered the shelters in those areas as vacant, since there had been no activity at each shelter in recent days.

On Wednesday, municipal staff placed locks on the two Halifax shelters. 

"When municipal staff arrived on site Friday morning, they confirmed there was no occupant on site and there were no personal belongings present," the release said.

Whenever an occupant leaves a temporary shelter, either on or before the deadline of July 13, the municipality said it will take steps to remove the vacant shelter in "as timely a manner as possible."

A sign is shown on the door of one of the temporary shelters outside the old Halifax library on Spring Garden Road. The city has set a deadline of July 13 for people to leave the shelters and have them removed, but some have been taken down by HRM already. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

However, Halifax Mutual Aid has said via Twitter that the Victoria Park shelter was actually occupied, and the person was at work when it was removed. 

It said the city's lock was removed, and the occupant locked the shelter with their own padlock. When city staff arrived on Friday, HMA said the "lock they found wasn't theirs."

It also tweeted that the organization is in touch with the former occupant, and they had found a place to sleep Friday night. 

The municipality has said it is making sure those using the shelters work with street navigators, the provincial Department of Community Services and support workers to find a housing option that works for them.

If nothing is available right away, Mayor Mike Savage said that people will be put up in hotels "not just for two weeks, but until they find a more permanent home."

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Halifax Mutual Aid has heard the city will remove the 14 shelters, after finding people temporary places to stay.

Although Halifax Mutual Aid said earlier in the week it did not plan to take down the shelters of anyone who wanted to keep using them, on Saturday it said it would remove them.

Following Friday's "surprise demolitions," HMA said it had been asked by some occupants to take down and store their shelters on Saturday.

The eviction notices issued on Tuesday stated those living in the shelters must leave by July 13, "failing which, the shelters, and any personal items ... will be removed by the municipality on or shortly after this date without further notice."

In its release Friday, the city said the deadline was not a commitment that it would "refrain" from removing shelters before then. Rather, it said it was a notification that the shelters must be vacated and removed by the people who installed them "no later" than that date.

The municipality said it is "important to remember" that those experiencing homelessness can choose to accept or decline housing options and offers of support.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson with the city said 11 eviction notices were handed out that day. Halifax Mutual Aid has said it knows of 15 temporary shelters scattered throughout the municipality.

CBC has requested an interview with HMA and will update this story with any response.

The shelters, which popped up on several HRM properties over the last few months, violate a bylaw against creating accommodation on municipal land.