- Why is the municipality removing tent encampments from municipal property?
On Monday, August 16, tent occupants were provided with written notice to vacate and remove all belongings from municipal property immediately.
The situation at a number of parks, due to the recent proliferation of tents, has created an increased risk to the health and safety of both the tent occupants and the public, and must be addressed. The municipality has received numerous reports from residents including public nuisance complaints and concerns for public safety. In light of this, steps were taken earlier this week to provide tent occupants with written notice to vacate and remove all belongings from municipal property immediately. The municipality is hopeful that occupants of homeless encampments will voluntarily vacate and remove their belongings from the parks.
On August 18, Municipal Compliance officers followed up with tent occupants to aid in the removal of tents and temporary shelters from municipal parks. Staff members from Parks and Recreation and Halifax Regional Police were onsite to assist with removal efforts if required.
- Have occupants of the tent encampments been provided housing options and/or temporary accommodations?
Over the last several months, the municipality has taken a progressive approach to education and awareness related to the installation of tents and temporary shelters in municipal spaces.
These efforts have included ongoing offers of support and services through community outreach workers, posting signage in municipal parks and visits to sites by municipal staff, who have advised tent occupants that placing anything in a park for the purpose of temporary or permanent accommodation is not permitted.
The municipality has worked with the province, as well as community-based partners including the Street Outreach Navigators and housing support workers, to offer those experiencing homelessness with support – including a range of housing options and/or temporary accommodation.
The Province of Nova Scotia continues to work to secure temporary accommodation options that can bridge to permanent housing. Temporary accommodation options – including hotel stays and shelter beds – are being made available to occupants of encampments located on municipal property. It is important to remember that those experiencing homelessness can choose to accept or decline housing options and/or offers of support.
All the sites of homeless encampments on municipal property have been visited by municipal staff and community outreach workers; however, due to the transitory nature of the occupants of homeless encampments, it cannot be confirmed that all occupants have been directly engaged.
Any further questions regarding what the province is offering to occupants of homeless encampments should be directed to the province as they are responsible to address homelessness in all of Nova Scotia’s municipalities. Residents with questions related to provincial supports and services for those experiencing homelessness can call 211 for more information.
- Specifically, what are the public health and safety concerns that led to the decision to remove homeless encampments from municipal property?
The situation at a number of parks, due to the recent proliferation of tents, has created an increased risk to the health and safety of both the tent occupants and the public, and must be addressed. The municipality has received numerous reports from residents including public nuisance complaints and concerns for public safety.
All members of the public have a right to use and enjoy the entirety of municipal parks, not just the portions otherwise occupied by temporary shelters and tents. With the safety of all residents as a top priority, encroachment should be acted upon by appropriate enforcement of existing laws and regulations.
- Will tents and temporary shelters be removed if they have not yet been vacated?
Municipal staff have advised tent and temporary shelter occupants that placing anything in a park for the purpose of temporary or permanent accommodation is not permitted under By-Law P-600, the Municipal Parks By-Law. We are hopeful that occupants will voluntarily vacate and remove their belongings from the parks. The municipality will take steps to remove tents and temporary shelters if they are not removed voluntarily. Non-compliance will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
- Is the municipality evicting the occupants of homeless encampments?
The first step in enforcement is always education. Further to the ongoing engagement with occupants by community outreach workers to offer services and support, municipal staff have made a concerted effort to advise occupants on municipal property that they must vacate immediately.
The situation at a number of parks, due to the recent proliferation of tents, has created an increased risk to the health and safety of both homeless encampment occupants and the public, and must be addressed.
The municipality has received numerous reports from residents including public nuisance complaints and concerns for public safety. In light of this, steps were taken earlier this week (August 16) to provide tent occupants with written notice to vacate and remove all belongings from municipal property immediately.
Placing anything in a park for the purpose of temporary or permanent accommodation is not permitted under By-law P-600, the Municipal Parks By-law. The personal property used for accommodation, such as tents, is a trespass on municipal property.
The municipality is hopeful that occupants of homeless encampments will voluntarily vacate and remove their belongings from the parks.
On Wednesday, August 18, Municipal Compliance officers followed up with homeless encampment occupants to aid the safe removal from municipal parks. Staff members from Parks and Recreation and Halifax Regional Police were onsite to assist with removal efforts if required.
If attempts at education prove to be unsuccessful, the municipality will have the ability to use enforcement options. The enforcement approach is not preferable; however, it may be warranted depending upon the associated risks.
- There is a temporary shelter/tent in a municipal park near me. What is being done about this?
If the municipality receives a report that a temporary shelter or tent is being placed on municipal property, municipal staff will follow up on its removal. Where possible, a Street Outreach Navigator and/or a housing support worker will visit the site to discuss supports available to them. Residents can report tents on municipal
- What is the municipality's position on Halifax Mutual Aid's claim that the removal of temporary shelters violates section 7 of the Charter?
The municipality has reviewed the cases involving encampments in both British Columbia and more recently in Toronto where, unlike in Halifax, housing is a municipal responsibility. Given the support and options being made available to the occupants of these shelters by the province it is the municipality’s position that the actions taken by the municipality will not serve to deprive these individuals of their section 7 Charter rights.
- What, specifically, is the municipality doing to help address homelessness/support homeless individuals?
The municipality's approach to homeless encampments 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 municipality continues to be committed to applying resources to identify housing and eradicate homelessness in the region. Changes have been made to remove regulatory and service barriers for people experiencing housing insecurity such as removing fees, tax relief and donation of municipal land for affordable housing projects and installing public washrooms. The municipality has worked resourcefully within its mandate to address the issue; however, this is a problem that cannot be solved by any one level of government or organization. As housing insecurity continues to be an issue in the region, work with community partners and the provincial government has significantly accelerated, and collaboration across organizations has expanded on both affordable housing and homelessness.
In the 2021-22 fiscal year, the municipality is hiring a new position focused on homelessness who will be responsible for guiding policy development and collaboration with stakeholders on addressing homelessness. The municipality will be developing a longer-term strategy to guide the municipality's response to homelessness.
As part of the Major Cities funding stream, the Halifax Regional Municipality has been identified for immediate funding of $8,659,527 to create a minimum of 28 units of new permanent affordable housing. The municipality has evaluated the Expressions of Interest and has selected the following projects: Mi'kmaq Native Friendship Centre, Adsum for Women and Children and the North End Community Health Association for a total of 52 units/rooms. View the report. The projects will include a focus on people who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness including urban Indigenous people, women and their children, Black Canadians as well as people with physical disabilities. View the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) press release.
- What financial supports have been provided by the municipality to assist the most vulnerable?
The municipality is continuing to work with community-based partners and the province on housing and homelessness in our region to support individuals experiencing homelessness.
This past winter, the municipality provided $60,000 through the Downtown Halifax Business Commission (DHBC) to help Street Outreach Navigators provide short term stays to the most vulnerable individuals – those sleeping outside (including those in temporary structures), without shelter, and/or facing immediate danger of homelessness.
This support also includes increased access to services and supports with the goal of finding more permanent housing. The municipality is the primary funding partner for the Street Outreach Navigators through the downtown business improvement districts for Halifax and Dartmouth. The annual contribution for this year is $140,000.
- Has the municipality's approach to homeless encampments changed?
The municipality’s empathy-based approach to homeless encampments remains unchanged.
From the outset, the approach has been to allow occupants of homeless encampments to remain until adequate housing has been identified and offered, or until the health and safety of the occupants or public are at risk.