More than 100 people gathered outside Halifax City Hall on Saturday to protest the city’s approach to tackling homelessness, demanding an end to evictions.
It has been a month since Halifax Regional Police and city staff carried out a mass eviction of people sleeping on public property on the peninsula, and the pressure is mounting.
Defenders say homeless people are still confronted and displaced by police when they try to sleep in tents or “crisis shelters” in city parks.
“There is a great sense of fear and anxiety among homeless people, that wherever they end up when they are evicted from a place, they are just going to be evicted again,” said Drew Moore, a volunteer spokesperson for the Permanent, an accessible, dignified and safer community network.
Moore said police were ordering homeless people to stay in Meagher Park, at the intersection of Chebucto Road and Dublin Street, now called “People’s Park” by defenders.
“As of this morning we are pushing 30 people sheltering in this park now,” Moore said.
The community network managed the camp in this park with the help of donated food and supplies and the help of volunteers.
On the day of the first evictions, there were two shelters in this park.
Moore said for the moratorium on evictions to happen, the municipality would have to change a bylaw that prohibits people from sleeping in parks or erecting any kind of shelter there.
“We are now entering the fall, the temperatures are dropping overnight. People are feeling it, there is a real concern for safety,” said Moore.
“People need housing and we understand that this is a complicated issue that requires levels of government. But at the moment, there is one simple thing that can be done to support people who are not housed. … And that is to change a rule. “
Speakers at the protest included Campbell McClintock of Halifax Mutual Aid, the group of volunteers who have been building small wooden shelters since last winter.
Another speaker was Malcolm Kay. He was moved from a park last month and was staying at the Comfort Inn on Windmill Road in Dartmouth, but was told this week he had to leave.
He said his child was placed in provincial care because he had no stable place to live.
After last month’s evictions, the city said everyone has been offered alternative accommodation, such as hotel stays until they can find a more permanent solution. This week, people living in hotel rooms reserved by the municipality were told they had to leave because the rooms had been reserved by other customers.
At the end of August, the Halifax Regional Council allocated $ 500,000 for the creation of emergency housing. It was not clear if anyone from the council was present at the protest on Saturday.
Moore said he believes the protest will send a clear message to the council.
“People care about their neighbors,” he said. “And our neighbors and fellow community members include homeless people.”