Nova Scotia

Province announces money for shelter beds, housing initiative

The Nova Scotia government announced this week two initiatives aimed at addressing the province's growing homelessness problem. The moves are being welcomed by community workers, even as some continue to push for permanent solutions like more affordable housing.

Money going to beds at Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre shelter, to develop housing proposal

There are currently about 450 people experiencing homelessness in Halifax. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The Nova Scotia government announced this week two initiatives aimed at addressing the province's growing homelessness problem.

The moves are being welcomed by community workers, even as some continue to push for permanent solutions like more affordable housing.

On Tuesday, the province said it would spend $350,000 to add 15 new beds to the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre's North Park shelter in Halifax. That will increase the total number of beds designated for Indigenous men and women at the shelter to 40.

"We are grateful for the opportunity to expand the supports available to help our community," Pam Glode-Desrochers, executive director of Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre, said in a press release. "We look forward to the continued partnership with the province to support the most vulnerable in our community."

Last year, the province committed $1.8 million to housing projects in the Halifax area, including money that would help pay for 17 units being built by the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre.

On Wednesday, the province also announced $100,000 to develop a proposal for a community-based, permanent housing project for up to 100 women and children called the Home for Good Centre. The work will include selecting a site, the preliminary design and creating a fundraising plan.

As of May 11, according to the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, there were 450 people experiencing homelessness in Halifax, 235 identifying as men and 199 as women. It's a drop from the 490 in December. 

Miia Suokonautio, executive director of the YWCA Halifax, said the province is in a housing crisis that needs to be fixed. (CBC)

A 2019 Statistics Canada report found that one of the major challenges for women who had fled abuse and were in a shelter was finding affordable and adequate long-term housing. Nearly one in five returned to live with their abuser.

One of the aims of the Home for Good Centre will be to provide women with a permanent residence, according to Miia Suokonautio, the executive director of the YWCA of Halifax, one of the project proponents.

"It's really about building a multi-use space that includes housing," said Suokonautio.

Suokonautio said Home For Good Centre will not only be offering affordable housing it will be a community hub.

"We really want to see a high class women centre in the city that would have not only housing but serve as a community drop-in space, women's resource centre, potentially child care, maybe a social enterprise, so many different things."

Suokonautio said homelessness is a gendered experience and there are some segments of the population more affected than others.

"When we talk about women housing, we know that African Nova Scotian and Indigenous women and trans women are disproportionately impacted within the criminal justice system," she said. "For us this is really about diverse women and girls. It's for Black women, it's for Indigenous women, it's for trans women, it's for young women."

Suokonautio said it's hoped the Home for Good Centre will be similar to YWCA projects in larger cities, such as Vancouver. Suokonautio points to a low-income housing project in Vancouver primarily for single mothers and families. It provides 32 units and requires residents to submit financial documents annually to be eligible.

"The first, second, third and fourth thing is we need housing. We need more units. We need affordable units. We need safe units," said Suokonautio. "Good affordable housing needs to be available for everybody because that's how we're going to make a positive contribution to our collective community."

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

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