Homeless people who have lived in Dartmouth, NS, city-booked hotel rooms say they were unexpectedly told to move on Wednesday, leaving outreach workers to scramble to find other options.
Malcolm Kay had stayed at the Comfort Inn on Windmill Road in Dartmouth last week and thought his situation was “solid” until he could find his own place.
But on Tuesday, Kay said hotel staff told her and a few others that they had to leave the next day.
“Is it like I will see my daughter again one day?” For example, how am I going to start rebuilding myself again? Kay said Wednesday at Meagher Park in Halifax, where he planned to spend the night in a camp on the property.
“I was trying to organize things.
Kay said the hotel staff were very nice, but told her rooms have been booked for a long time for other guests and will still be unavailable from September 15.
Meagher Park, also called People’s Park by those who live and volunteer there, has been the site of a growing tent and shelter encampment since last month when city staff and police forcibly evicted dozens of people from municipal land.
Mayor Mike Savage said on Wednesday the city was working with street workers and provincial housing support workers to pay for hotel rooms, including at the Comfort Inn.
Savage said the rooms were booked two weeks ago and the city felt people could stay there “for the longer term” after September 15.
“The hotel has the right to make its own decisions. And so they decided to no longer host these people,” said Savage.
The manager of the Comfort Inn declined an interview.
City spokesman Brynn Budden said Wednesday that eight former Meagher Park residents were staying at the Comfort Inn last weekend. The hotel asked two people to leave and another person was moved to a “better option” by a service provider.
The remaining five people were logged in to support on Wednesday. Of these, three accepted other housing options, one person found their own accommodation, and one chose not to accept any options.
Kay said he would prefer camping at Meagher Park for now. He has two emotional support ferrets and pets are not allowed at local shelters. If he was offered another hotel room, Kay said he wasn’t sure if he would take it.
“Next time I go to one of these places I’m going to try and see if I can’t get it in writing. You know, how long and how stable it’s going to be,” said Kay.
“Things are going to have to change.
Eric Jonsson, one of two street navigators in Halifax, said accommodation of people in hotels is not protected by the Residential Tenancies Act and the length of their stay is unpredictable .
“I wish we could just throw the money we spend on hotels and all of these temporary measures… in building permanent housing for people,” Jonsson told CBC Radio. Maritime noon Thursday.
Two weeks ago, Halifax council approved two housing-related motions: one to allocate $ 500,000 for the creation of emergency housing, such as hotel rooms and other spaces, and one to dedicate from federal funds to the Quick Housing Initiative to create 85 new affordable units.
Savage said part of the problem is that hotels are busy this time of year and it is difficult to find hotels that will accommodate homeless people, but the municipality is “willing to pay”.
The mayor said he met with provincial Minister of Community Services Karla MacFarlane on Wednesday to discuss how the province can better help people in hotels with mental health and addictions services. MacFarlane has expressed support for this, Savage said.
“Obviously, you know, we can’t wait until next year for these [supports]. We need it now, today, ”said Savage. “We are ready to invest money in it… and we need the province to do the same. ”
At Meagher Park, site coordinator Rachelle Sauvé said volunteers had set up two more tents for those affected by the evictions from the Dartmouth hotel on Wednesday, bringing the total to 19 tents and two wooden shelters.
The site has been overcapacity for some time, but they don’t want to turn people away, said Sauvé, a member of the PADS (Permanent, Accessible, Dignified, and Safer) community network, which runs the camp.
The group calls on HRM to stop police evicting people from tents and shelters, as long-term solutions like affordable housing will take weeks and months to unravel.
They plan to hold a rally outside City Hall on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Savage said the municipality had “no intention” to move people, but police must monitor criminal activity.
A press release issued Thursday by the municipality said that Erica Fleck, deputy chief of emergency management, had been tasked with leading the city’s emergency response to the homeless. The three-month role begins Monday.
Fleck’s primary focus will be to support and coordinate the council’s decision to invest $ 500,000 in emergency housing.
Savage told CBC News Thursday that while housing and homelessness are not municipal responsibilities, he and his staff have been working with the province to find solutions.
“We are treating this as a crisis,” he said. “We want everyone to have a place to go, spend the night and be comfortable and have the dignity of life that everyone deserves.”