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Halifax homeless encampment hits double capacity, officials mull next step

Click to play video: 'Some Halifax tent encampments growing'
Some Halifax tent encampments growing
Some tent encampments across Halifax are continuing to grow. The city is bracing for even more of a growth as the warmer weather hits. Zack Power reports. – Apr 17, 2024

Homeless encampments in Halifax are at overcapacity, and municipal officials are growing concerned about what to do about it.

After five of the encampment locations in Halifax were de-designated in February, some in the homeless community moved to a green space on University Avenue, across the street from the de-designated Victoria Park.

As one of the four remaining designated areas for unhoused people to set up their tents, the University Avenue encampment there has quickly grown.

The Halifax Regional Municipality said in a statement that University Avenue has a capacity for six tents, but 12 are now on site.

“Do we think that it’s going to increase this summer? Yes. It would be foolish not to think so,” said Coun. Cathy Deagle Gammon, who is also HRM’s deputy mayor, in regard to whether the people living outdoors will continue to grow as warmer weather approaches.

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Gammon said she is hearing from people in the community that the municipality isn’t doing enough to help those unhoused, but conceded it’s a learning curve and is asking the public to be patient and accepting.

“It’s sometimes easy to look at somebody else’s situation and make assumptions,” she said. “And so, if possible, please, be patient, be understanding, reserve some judgment, try to figure out how you can help.”

No one from municipal staff was available for an interview Wednesday about if people could be moved from University Avenue, but noted in a statement that, “Municipal Housing & Homelessness staff continue to be in contact with people living in designated locations.”

Hair stylist Katy MacDonald said her customers were hesitant to stop into the hair salon on South Park Street when the Victoria Park encampment existed.

“I feel like there are some people that would come around now because they feel safer — I don’t understand that mindset, of the safety and the danger,” MacDonald said.

She added she’s eaten lunch in that area every day and never once felt unsafe.

“I think humans in general could look and see how we’re kind of all one decision away, or one mistake, or one thing we’re not in control of away from us being in uncomfortable situations ourselves,” she said.

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