As a messy storm moves toward Nova Scotia, a new shelter for the unhoused is opening its doors in Dartmouth.
It will provide at least 50 beds for people sleeping rough, but not everyone is convinced they’ll be filled.
“It’s an absolutely ridiculous solution for the government to think,” says Kathryn Jones Cleroux, a resident of Victoria Park tent encampment. She’s not sure if a new shelter in Dartmouth will meet the needs of those sleeping rough in Halifax.
She says it’s not practical to ask encampment residents to relocate across the harbour for refuge.
The new shelter facility officially opened its doors at the former St. Paul Church on Windmill Road late Friday afternoon.
“That’s a great option for people who have lives in Dartmouth,” Cleroux says. “But if you leave your tent — it’s gone. Everything you own is now gone.”
Fifty beds are available to all genders and more can be added during an extreme weather event. On Saturday, a messy fall storm system is set to bring heavy rain and strong winds to the region.
Cleroux is planning on weathering the storm in her tent — and says many often do.
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“They went last time when all the search and rescue people came, and all the tents fell in the morning,” she recalls. “They were brought by the firemen to an emergency shelter. But that was (post-tropical storm) Lee, and the only time any of us have left to go to emergency shelters.
Cleroux adds it’s hard to protect your personal space in shared facilities.
“You have to set your boundaries very aggressively as a single woman. ‘This is my space!’ And you have to set it every day so that when you’re in that tent sleeping at night, you can feel safe enough to fall asleep,” she says. “Going to a shelter, if I want to set my space as aggressively, I’d probably get kicked out.”
Cleroux says winter tents are what Victoria Park residents need most. She lives in one, thanks to a donation by a community member, and says it’s the only tent of its kind at the encampment.
Meantime, the community organization overseeing the new shelter is encouraging anyone who is sleeping rough to use the space.
“We simply just want to make sure that people understand in coming here, it’s a safe environment, it’s a comfortable environment,” says Marcus James, executive director of 902 ManUp. “We ask everybody to respect everybody who comes through our doors.”
He says the shelter is also focused on helping people find better places to live.
“We’re actually going to be providing support, in partnership with other service providers, along with 902 ManUp, and seeing if we can transition people into permanent homes,” says James.
The Halifax Regional Municipality says Ground Search and Rescue will monitor tenting sites on Saturday and provide transport if required.