The Halifax Convention Centre may be used to house homeless citizens over the winter if COVID-19 restrictions are extended.
Coun. Lindell Smith posed the question of whether there have been discussions about using the convention centre as an emergency shelter to Events East president and CEO Carrie Cussons during Tuesday’s regional council meeting.
Events East, operator of the Halifax Convention Centre, met with Halifax regional council to discuss their 2020-2021 business plan.
Cussons said that there has not been any “reach out” from Halifax Regional Municipality or the province with respect to this housing issue.
“We’re always open for a conversation about how we can be helpful to the community,” said Cussons, leaving the floor open for future discussions.
Mayor Mike Savage said he and Chief Administrative Officer Jacques Dubé have recently been involved with discussions of emergency shelter in negotiation with the province and that this is “a conversation worth having.”
The convention centre was not identified as a potential site “simply because of the ongoing events that have been there,” said Dubé.
“The issue for us and for public health in terms of the convention centre is having people living in the facility at the same time when there are people coming in for events. The interface between those two different communities made it literally impossible to make that happen.”
If the current government mandated two-week closure is extended to a longer period of time or if homeless residents still need the space, Dubé stated, the council will take a closer look at this option.
The Events East business plan states that the city’s funding requirement for 2020 is “approximately double typical year,” or $5.4 million, because of losses due to restrictions on gathering limits and travel.
These funds will be drawn from the Halifax Convention Centre reserve, which chief financial officer Jane Fraser said is projected to have a budget of $3.7 million by the end of March 2021.
Fraser suggested that a briefing note be distributed to every councillor due to confusion over how the reserve works. Despite concerns about the reserve, council unanimously passed the now $11.1-million deficit business plan.