Homeless question city’s motives in evicting encampment residents

‘It is not a safe or dignified form of housing to live outside’: councillor

4 min read
Ric Young
caption Ric Young said shelters are not an option for him, comparing the facilities to "jail." He lived in a tent in Grand Parade for six months until February, spent two weeks in a bed and breakfast and is homeless once again.
Ellie Enticknap-Smith

The Feb. 26 eviction date for the removal of the homeless encampments in Grand Parade and Victoria Park in downtown Halifax passed quietly as Halifax Regional Municipality revealed they would not force residents to leave.

However, homeless residents say they continue to feel neglected by the city.

Coun. Pam Lovelace said she spends lots of time in Grand Parade, speaking with residents and encouraging them to go to a shelter, which is the first step in transitioning into more stable housing.

“I know that over the past few weeks people have been leaving during the day,” Lovelace told The Signal in a phone interview.

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“They’ve been going and looking at housing options; apartments, shelter space, space at the Waverley Inn and various different options that the province has available to them. I don’t know if there will be anybody coming back tonight.”

The city announced on Feb. 7 that it’s closing five of 11 designated homeless encampments, Grand Parade and Victoria Park included.

Aaron Earl, a volunteer at Grand Parade, is critical of HRM’s motives.

Grand Parade encampment
caption HRM says the province has told them indoor options are available for homeless people now that 5 of 11 encampments are being cleared out.
Ellie Enticknap-Smith

“Let’s be honest, the Junos are coming to town, and they’re trying to clean up the streets to make a more presentable downtown for people coming into the city,” Earl told The Signal while giving out free food and care packages on eviction day.

“I think it’s very despicable that the image of our public parks and squares is more important than housing and safety for people who live in this city.”

The Juno Awards honour achievements in Canadian music and are scheduled to be held in Halifax on March 24.

Lovelace said that the evictions were bound to happen regardless of the upcoming Junos.

“I think it’s absolutely a ridiculous assumption or statement to think that the Junos have anything to do with this,” she said. “The weather and the recent deaths of people in encampments is an extremely serious issue. It is not a safe or dignified form of housing to live outside.”

Impossible choices

Ric Young left the Grand Parade encampment earlier in February after living there for six months but is now homeless again after staying at a bed and breakfast for two weeks.

“It’s impossible to get out of this situation,” Young told The Signal in Grand Parade on eviction day.

“The choice you have is to go to a shelter, a shelter that you can’t smoke after 11. You’re counted before bed and you’re woken up at whatever time. You might as well just go to jail.”

John James Campbell, an encampment resident at Victoria Park, said he plans on staying until he’s told to leave.

“I’m gonna find another alternative,” said Campbell. “Just another place where I can pitch a tent because I don’t think that shelters are an adequate place for me personally because of all the crack and the criminals. I don’t want to worry about my safety every day, worry about my personal things every day.”

Lovelace said residents of the encampments will not be forced to leave.

“The notice to vacate was an opportunity to let people know that there are other options that they should consider for their health, safety and wellness,” said Lovelace. “And those options vary depending on what a person’s needs are.”

People might not be forced to leave the encampments, but they are still upset by HRM’s decision.

“Honestly, I really don’t have a plan, I’m not new to this,” said a man staying in the Grand Parade encampment who doesn’t plan to leave.

“I know it’s just an endless cycle of bullshit, so I’ve been jaded to it a long time ago. Just another slap in the face. It’s part of the existence.”

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