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Halifax emergency shelter project one step closer to approval

New shelter could reduce the chronically homeless population by 10 per cent

2 min read
The current home at 5853 College Street
caption This empty building on College Street could be demolished and replaced with a new shelter.
Stephen Wentzell

A new emergency shelter project just passed its first planning hurdle to green-light a development in Halifax’s south end.

Halifax regional council unanimously accepted the first reading of a recommendation Tuesday to amend the Regional Municipal Planning Strategy and Land-Use By-law in an effort to transition 5853 College St. into an emergency shelter.

The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, which opened an emergency shelter with 40 beds Sunday on North Park Street, is seeking to demolish the existing building on College Street to develop a new shelter space.

Pam Glode-Desrochers, executive director of the centre, is thrilled to see the project moving forward 15 years after the organization’s first community plan.

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She said homelessness rates in Halifax are continuing to rise. While the answers lie in the communities, Glode-Desrochers believes solutions can’t be achieved without partnerships from all levels of government.

“We assume it’s just about the bricks and mortars, and the reality is, it’s not,” she said. “It’s about so much more support that people need.”

New building would have residential units, emergency beds

The project would secure seven residential units, a rooming house and 32 emergency beds. Using a tiered approach, clients would receive support from the moment they find a shelter space until they secure long-term housing.

The vacant building was used as an emergency shelter in 2019 before a burst pipe caused substantial damage, rendering the building inhabitable.

The development could help transition approximately 10 per cent of Halifax’s chronic homelessness community to a shelter space.

Halifax Regional Municipality received approximately $8.7 million in funding in October through the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) that seeks to invest $1 billion to create up to 3,000 permanent affordable housing units across the country.

In November, council voted unanimously to approve funding for three proposed affordable housing developments in HRM, one of which is the College Street property. The RHI requires projects to be completed within 12 months and occupied by March 2022.

Council fast-tracking amendments

Coun. Waye Mason, who represents the district where the new emergency shelter would be located, brought forward the motion for council support.

Glode-Desrochers is thankful council recognizes they play a role in housing.

“I always say, ‘Grab my hand and take a leap of faith. We’re going to do this together,’” she said.

Council chose not to pursue these amendments under the Regional Centre Plan Use Bylaw in an effort to fast-track the process. That process requires a safe plan approval process, creating additional delays in approval of amendments.

The proposal now moves to its second reading, where a public hearing will be set for constituents to weigh in on the amendments.

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About the author

Stephen Wentzell

Stephen Wentzell is an ambitious and resilient investigative writer from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has been a journalist for a third of his life....

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