Approach to homelessness

Adapting our approach

The municipality has adapted its approach to reflect changes that are impacting the homelessness crisis. As capacity for indoor shelters and supportive housing options continues to increase, the municipality is directing its focus away from the provision of designated locations and towards helping those experiencing homelessness to access better accommodation options. The municipality is constantly assessing the need for designated locations. As more indoor shelter spaces and supportive housing options become available, more parks will be closed, de-designated and returned to their intended purposes as spaces for everyone. 

Read the Feb. 7, 2024 Municipal statement about encampments and de-designating locations.

  • The municipality’s approach to homelessness centres on treating people experiencing homelessness in our public spaces with dignity while working to find ways to best support them within our capacity and scope as a municipality. 
  • The right to adequate housing is embedded in international law, federal legislation, and municipal strategies and frameworks. Accordingly, the municipality understands encampments to be in violation of individuals’ rights to adequate housing.
  • For these reasons, the municipality’s approach involves allowing those sleeping rough to remain in designated locations until indoor shelter spaces or housing options have been identified and offered, or until the health and safety of the occupants or public are at risk.
  • This approach does not condone or support the installation of infrastructure associated with encampments and requires that steps be taken to address demonstrated risks to the health and safety of occupants or the public. 
  • The municipality's response to homelessness is collaborative and community-based. The municipality is the primary funding partner for the Street Outreach Navigators, through the downtown business improvement districts. The Street Outreach Navigators help ensure those experiencing homelessness have access to appropriate supports. 
  • The Province of Nova Scotia, as well as community-based partners including the Street Outreach Navigators and housing support workers, continue to offer those experiencing homelessness with support – including a range of housing options and/ or temporary accommodation.

As the municipality considers its ongoing support around the issue of homelessness, the following principles are guiding efforts by staff:

  • The municipality wants everyone to have a home.
  • As supported by the Government of Canada in their Reaching Home initiatives, Housing First is the recommended approach to help individuals experiencing homelessness.
  • Every action the municipality takes in assisting people experiencing homelessness should be grounded in a harm reduction approach, consider how it supports human rights, and maintains personal dignity for those affected.
  • Relationship building, learning, education, and voluntary compliance are always preferred over an involuntary compliance action.
  • Transparency and ongoing communication are essential for the development of trust.
  • Whenever possible, the municipality should avoid duplicating the work of other service providers in the community and instead support them in their efforts to serve residents better.
  • Nothing for us, without us – the people who will be impacted by decisions and actions should be meaningfully involved in those decisions.
  • Everyone is expected to follow the law.
  • Halifax Regional Police (HRP) should not be a primary response to many of the issues surrounding homelessness. HRP should be focused on the prevention and resolution of crime. Responses to issues surrounding homelessness should whenever possible be led by Street Navigators, service providers, and civilian compliance officers.