Recent and ongoing efforts
Recent and ongoing efforts by the municipality to help address homelessness in the Halifax region.
- News Release Sept. 29: Municipality continues collaboration to help address homelessness in the Halifax region
- Important steps have been taken to support access to affordable housing while simultaneously working with partners to combat the critical issue of homelessness. The municipality has been allocated more than $20 million through the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative program which will result in 137 units of new permanent, affordable housing.
- A significant development in the advancement of the municipality's commitment to invest $500,000 towards securing emergency accommodations is underway; the municipality is currently in discussions with the province to establish two emergency accommodations sites in the very near future.
24 modular units that can provide accommodations for up to 73 individuals have been secured by the municipality. One emergency accommodations site will be located in Dartmouth, and another in Halifax. Specific locations are to be determined in consultation with the professional service providers and the province.
The municipality has committed to providing lands for the emergency accommodations sites, securing the modular units, and facilitating required renovations, as well as site preparation and installation. Once established, the emergency accommodation sites would provide washrooms, laundry, kitchen area and sleeping accommodations.
The municipality will be looking to the province to provide wrap around services for the occupants of these sites.
The emergency accommodation sites will remain available for as long as the need is required; future status of the sites will be assessed on an ongoing basis.
- On Sept. 18, the municipality was contacted by professional service providers and volunteers at the homeless encampment located at Meagher Park requesting support to immediately relocate individuals from the park due to an increased risk to the health and safety of both the tent occupants and the public. The municipality took immediate action to secure alternative, safe, temporary accommodations and transitioned Gray Arena to a temporary emergency shelter with Out of the Cold as the service provider and funding from the province for wrap around services. In collaboration with professional service providers, several individuals who accepted this offer, were placed into these temporary accommodations.
- The Gray Arena will remain operational as a temporary emergency shelter, until October 31 at the latest, at which time all individuals onsite will have been provided alternative options – whether that be at one of the new emergency accommodations sites being developed in the near future or other facilities operated by professional service providers and funded through the province.
Through collaboration with professional service providers and volunteers, occupants of the homeless encampment at Meagher Park continue to be offered alternative, safe, temporary accommodations. It is important to remember that some of those experiencing homelessness will not – or cannot – accept housing options, temporary accommodations and/or other offers of support for a variety of reasons.
- Assistant Chief of Emergency Management, Erica Fleck, has been assigned to a three-month role — beginning September 20, 2021 — to lead the emergency response to homelessness for the municipality. The role is focused on the immediate support required to advance Council’s directive to invest $500,000 towards emergency accommodations.
- The municipality is also hiring a coordinator for a one-year term to act as a liaison with professional service providers and ensure better aligned efforts in support of those experiencing homelessness. This position was created following input and feedback from professional service providers regarding ways in which the municipality can provide additional support.
- Municipal staff continue to work to identify sites that have the potential to accommodate temporary housing and are assessing the appropriateness of their use for this purpose, as well as the potential costs. If appropriate options are identified, professional community-based service providers will be engaged to determine the suitability of the site for short-term housing and providing support. Further information on the status of these efforts will be provided through regular updates as directed by Regional Council.
Simultaneous to these immediate-term efforts, the municipality is creating a full-time permanent position of Social Policy Strategist. This position was identified as a commitment in the 2021/22 fiscal budget and is expected to be filled in the fall of 2021. The Social Policy Strategist will focus on longer-term municipal priorities, including guiding policy development and collaboration with stakeholders on addressing homelessness in the Halifax region.
The current support being provided by the three-month role and the longer-term focus of the Social Policy Strategist position will augment the ongoing work municipal staff have been engaged in for the past several months to help address the critical issue of homelessness.
- The municipality has been allocated more than $20 million through the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative program which will result in 137 units of new permanent, affordable housing.
- In late 2020, Regional Council approved the funding for three affordable housing projects by Adsum for Women and Children; Mi’Kmaq Native Friendship Centre, and the North End Community Association for a total of 52 affordable units. 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. Work on these three projects is expected to be complete by the end of the year and occupied by March 2022. View the staff report.
- Round two came to Council at the end of August 2021 with the approval of 85 units including the conversion of non-residential building in North Dartmouth through the Affordable Housing Association of NS; 8 modular homes on the Akoma site outside of Dartmouth; and 12 apartment units in West Chezzetcook with Souls Harbour. View the staff report.
- In 2020, the municipality established a new surplus land category that will make land suitable for the development of housing available to registered non-profit or charitable housing organizations. Prior to the creation of this new surplus land category, Council approved the sale of four properties on True North Crescent in North Dartmouth to the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia.
- More information about municipal initiatives to support affordable housing can be found here.
During the winter of 2020/21, 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 2021/22 is $140,000.
In the 2021-22 fiscal year, the municipality will be developing a long-term strategy to guide the municipality’s response to homelessness.
The municipality continues to address 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.