Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Volunteers clean up and check on residents remaining at the homeless encampment in Grand Parade in front of City Hall in Halifax on Feb. 26.Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

The deadline for people to vacate tents in Halifax city parks came and went Monday, without enforcement of eviction notices and some homeless people saying they plan to stay put as there is nowhere safe to go.

Earlier this month, Halifax announced it would be closing five of its designated outdoor sheltering locations because of safety issues and because the city says better options now exist. The encampment locations include Grand Parade square outside City Hall and Victoria Park in the downtown core. More than a dozen tents and tarps remained at the two sites on Monday afternoon as encampment residents, volunteers and protesters gathered in support of the homeless.

The city designated 11 sites last October where camping would be allowed for people experiencing homelessness, amid a worsening housing crisis that has seen similar encampments in many communities across the country. Halifax still has six sites that remain designated areas for sleeping rough in tents.

John James Campbell, who has been living in a tent in Victoria Park since last April, said moving to an indoor shelter isn’t an option.

“I want to be in an environment where I’m safe and a shelter is not really a safe place right now,” said Mr. Campbell, who said he plans to move his tent to another location if eviction is enforced.

He said he did speak to a social worker who came around recently. He applied for housing, including a pallet shelter that the province has promised to open soon. But for right now, he said he wants privacy and dignity, and living in a tent is the best option for him. “I’m not a drug user. I don’t have addiction issues or mental-health issues – I kind of fell between the cracks,” he added.

Halifax’s public affairs adviser Jake Fulton declined to provide additional information about how the city plans to deal with those who have remained at the tent encampments, other than pointing to a press release from Sunday. “There will be a measured approach where each situation will be looked at on a case-by-case basis,” said the press release. “Efforts related to relocating individuals from the de-designated locations to indoor options will be civilian-led.”

About half of the roughly 55 people living in encampments have accepted indoor sheltering options at several facilities, said the city’s press release.

One of them is Ric Young. He said volunteers gave him $2,000 to vacate the Grand Parade encampment, to pay for a room at a local bed and breakfast, where he’s been living for the past week and a half. As of this Friday, though, he says he is out. The tent he was living in has already been removed from the city square. He’s not sure where he’ll go but said he would rather go to jail than to the shelter. “I’ve never been in jail, but I guarantee it’s gotta be better than the shelter right now,” he told The Globe and Mail.

Mr. Young, a Red Seal certified chef, says he wants to start working again, but no one will give him an opportunity until he has a place to live. He said he hasn’t been able to secure an apartment because of his low credit score. “No one wants to take a chance on a guy who’s been living in a tent for six months and give me an apartment,” he added.

About 30 people were gathered in the public square Monday morning, some holding signs that read “housing not evictions” and “affordable housing now.”

Marin Mealey said she showed up because she wanted the city to know that many people are opposed to the encampment evictions. “The narrative that there are better options out there is disingenuous,” she said.

“More housing is the solution to these problems, not evictions from tents.”

Steve Wilsack, who’s been providing support to unhoused people at the Grand Parade for more than three months, said it’s “just wrong on so many levels” to move people during winter from a site where they have electricity, heat, security and community. “This is inhumane. This is a catastrophe.”

Halifax’s chief administrative officer Cathie O’Toole said on Feb. 7 that the city has the “legal authority to remove people.”

With a report from The Canadian Press

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe