‘This is all they have’: Wind storm destroys tents for unhoused in Halifax

Click to play video: 'Fierce storm destroys tents in Halifax'
Fierce storm destroys tents in Halifax
WATCH: Halifax’s unhoused community woke up to dozens of tents destroyed by wind and rain Monday night. The fierce storm came with a call to action by community volunteers, pleading with officials to find a solution before the weather gets worse. Zack Power reports. – Nov 28, 2023

Monday’s fierce wind and rain storm took residents of Grand Parade’s tent encampment in Halifax by surprise, and destroyed nearly a third of the structures.

Joe, who declined to share his last name, lives in one of those tents and said the storm was devastating.

“It was almost like a scene out of the Wizard of Oz,” he said on Tuesday at the site in front of City Hall in Halifax.

“I expected people to go spiraling into the sky. It’d blow you sideways.”

Crews were on scene Tuesday morning, cleaning up what was left of some of the tents. In a statement, Halifax Regional Municipality said outreach staff visited “multiple” sites during the day to replace supplies that were damaged by the storm.

“We encourage those currently sleeping rough to take advantage of the Province’s recently opened emergency shelter, located on Windmill Road,” wrote public affairs advisor, Ryan Nearing, in an email.

Story continues below advertisement

That’s a goal shared by volunteers who work with unhoused residents.

Steve Wilsack, who volunteers at Grand Parade in downtown Halifax, said they’d like to help more people get out of the tents and into more permanent shelter.

“These tents were not made to be in this type of climate and the first sign of snow, any weight is going to collapse the tents,” said Wilsack.

Grand Parade is one of 10 sites in the Halifax area that is designated as a tenting area for people experiencing homelessness.

Earlier this month, the municipality said everyone would have to leave the site because eventual snow-clearing operations would make the area dangerous. However, Halifax changed its tune five days later — and said a limit of eight tents can stay at Grand Parade.

Click to play video: 'Community members stepping up to keep Grand Parade tenters safe'
Community members stepping up to keep Grand Parade tenters safe

Elsewhere in the municipality, volunteers were cleaning up 10 tents on a Lower Sackville baseball field Tuesday that were destroyed by the weather. Most of the living in tents are without electricity and have few options for heat.

Story continues below advertisement

“This morning I stopped by when I got off work. Half the stuff was frozen to the ground,  the tents all frozen in, so I’m trying to salvage their supplies,” said Samantha Banks, the vice-president of Gated Community Association. The non-profit group organizes meals and assistance for unhoused people in the community.

“For many of them, this is all they have. This is all they own, so when your tent goes down, you can put things in totes, but it’s not foolproof.”

— with files from The Canadian Press 

Sponsored content