‘There’s going to be more deaths’: Halifax tent community reeling after man dies

Click to play video: 'Community living at Halifax’s Grand Parade reeling following death of man at tent encampment'
Community living at Halifax’s Grand Parade reeling following death of man at tent encampment
The community living at Halifax’s Grand Parade is reeling following a recent death. A man living at the encampment died Friday after a suspected overdose. Advocates warn that without help, things will only get worse. Vanessa Wright reports. – Dec 18, 2023

The community living at the tent encampment at Halifax’s Grand Parade is reeling after a recent death, and advocates say the situation will only worsen if people don’t receive the help they need.

Halifax Regional Police confirm that officers responded to the encampment in downtown Halifax just after 2 p.m. last Friday to a man in medical distress.

The man was taken to hospital where he later died. Police say the incident is not believed to be suspicious, and volunteers at the site say there are unconfirmed reports it was an overdose.

“The types of activities that take place at this encampment…there’s a lot of drugs, a lot of alcohol,” said volunteer Stephen Wilsack.

“People are getting very discouraged and they seem to be relying on substances in order to cope.”

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

Wilsack said the man had been living in a tent at the Victoria Park site. Those who knew him say he was a father and was determined to get his life back on track.

“It’s scary and sad,” said friend, Richard Young.

“It’s a huge blow. The guy was a gentle giant. One of the nicest guy you’ve ever met. He’d give you anything he had. I mean he’d talk about his son the whole time, he’d talk about his family.”

Global News reached out to Mayor Mike Savage for the story, but he declined to comment.

In a statement to Global News, the province’s Department of Community Services said while it couldn’t comment on a specific case, “we are saddened by this loss and by the impact it has had on the community experiencing and supporting those who are homeless.”

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“Outreach workers continue to work tirelessly to help people experiencing homelessness connect to shelters and supports, including in Grand Parade,” the statement continued.

“Since opening, 902 Man Up has reserved shelter space for residents of Grand Parade at the Windmill Road shelter. Outreach teams have offered transportation and tours of the shelter to support transitions.”

Volunteers at Grand Parade admit the tragedy has taken a traumatic toll.

“With the combination of the incident that happened here on Friday and the previous Saturday where there was a near propane explosion … the impact is immense,” said Wilsack.

He said in the past 72 hours, he has seen an increase in the use of drugs and alcohol at Grand Parade, prompting them to beef up security.

“It’s going to happen. Positively. 100 per cent. There’s going to be more deaths,” said Young.

“A lot more deaths in the next couple of weeks. A lot more deaths.”

Click to play video: 'Tent encampment grows outside Halifax City Hall even as winter weather approaches'
Tent encampment grows outside Halifax City Hall even as winter weather approaches

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