Nova Scotia

Halifax to start removing temporary shelters on municipal property

Halifax officials are telling people using temporary shelters on municipal property that the huts must be gone by next Tuesday.

People using shelters have until July 13 before municipality removes huts and contents

Several tents and huts are located in front of the old Halifax library on Spring Garden Road. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Halifax officials are telling people using temporary shelters on municipal property that the huts must be gone by next Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality, Laura Wright, said after July 13, city officials will remove the shelters and anything in them. The shelters, which popped up on several HRM properties over the last few months, violate a bylaw against creating accommodation on municipal land. 

"If the city or the province put up sheds and told people they were going to live in them, we'd be rightly accused of not treating people with dignity," Mayor Mike Savage said Tuesday.

"We want to give people better options."

The eviction notice says the hut will be removed next week. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

A number of the shelters were built by the volunteer group Halifax Mutual Aid. The structures, which are about six feet wide and eight feet long, have steel roofs and plywood walls covered with weather-resistant house wrap.

Notices from the municipality have been stapled on some of the huts, ordering the occupants to leave, remove the shelters and take their personal belongings. It warns those who don't do so by the deadline could face a fine of at least $100 under the Municipal Parks By-Law, or up to $500 under the provincial Protection of Property Act.

The municipality said it let people use the shelters until other adequate housing was offered, or until the use of those shelters put the public or the occupants at risk. 

"The province has been working to ensure all current occupants of the temporary shelters will be offered a temporary accommodation option that can bridge to permanent housing," Wright said. Five people have moved into other housing, Wright said. 

A man wearing a blue suit and tie.
Mayor Mike Savage says the city is working with the province to ensure people using the shelters have somewhere safe to go. (Robert Short/CBC)

Savage said the municipality will ensure 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, Savage said people will be put up in hotels "not just for two weeks, but until they find a more permanent home."

Wright said 11 eviction notices were handed out Tuesday. Campbell McClintock, a spokesperson with Halifax Mutual Aid, said they know of 15 temporary shelters scattered throughout the municipality.

The group said it doesn't intend to remove the shelters.

Allan DeYoung and two other men have been staying at three shelters built near Alderney Landing in Dartmouth. 

He told CBC News he does not plan to follow the order and said he's willing to risk arrest. He and the other men said they wouldn't physically resist an eviction, but also wouldn't leave on their own.

Allan DeYoung saw the eviction notice Tuesday morning. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Savage said Halifax Mutual Aid has known for some time the shelters are not a permanent solution. He said tents are less of a concern.

The shelters are more of a safety issue, Savage said, noting that one recently caught fire.

 "If there isn't options, you know that would be different. But we have options for all those people," Savage said.

A news release issued Tuesday morning by the municipality said: "Housing as a human right does not mean that this right can encroach upon the rights of others. With the safety of all residents as a top priority, encroachment must be acted upon by appropriate enforcement of existing laws and regulations."

Future temporary shelters will be stopped or removed "in a timely matter." 

"It is important to remember that those experiencing homelessness can choose to accept or decline housing options and offers of support," the release said.

Geoff MacLellan, the provincial housing minister, said emergency shelters around the Halifax area are a symptom of a larger problem.

"We don't have enough affordable housing … and it's been, again, a long time coming that we put some kind of plan together," MacLellean told CBC Radio's Mainstreet on Tuesday.

He said the $25 million announced Tuesday for affordable housing programs is a step in the right direction.

MacLellan said $20 million will be used to build between 600 and 900 affordable units and showcase types of buildings that are "really outside the box." They could include sea cans or mini homes, which are cheaper options that can be built on much smaller lots. 

"We can't continue to do what we've always done because it's not working and the pressures are now getting greater and we've got to do something quick," he said.

with files from Paul Palmeter, Amy Smith and Mainstreet