Less than 10 per cent of homeless shelters N.S. promised last year currently in place

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Nova Scotia has installed fewer than 10 per cent of the 200 self-contained, fibreglass shelters it promised to set up for the province’s growing number of homeless residents more than eight months after first making the pledge.

The province’s Community Services Minister says work is underway to open up 96 more of the insulated, 70-square-foot shelters across sites in Kentville, Whitney Pier and Dartmouth, adding the government is still trying to nail down locations for the remaining 85 units it has purchased.

Brendan Maguire said after a cabinet meeting this week his department is looking everywhere to find suitable locations for the remaining shelters, and could not say when the other 96 will be ready for residents to move in.

“We’ve challenged the staff, but more importantly, I’ve challenged myself to look everywhere and anywhere,” he said of potential sites for shelter villages, which could include a former military housing community in Dartmouth.

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“The issue that we kind of run into is just, quite frankly, the human resources,” Maguire said, adding the department is in the process of hiring more staff.

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Nova Scotia announced in October 2023 it was paying $7.5 million for 200 shelters made by the American company Pallet, with 100 of them earmarked for use in Halifax.

There are 19 people living in individual Pallet shelters at a site in the Halifax-area suburb of Lower Sackville, set up alongside separate washrooms and a laundry facility.

The Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia is reporting that as of last Tuesday, 1,281 people in the Halifax Regional Municipality reported they were homeless. Of those, 892 are considered chronically homeless, which means they have been without a place to live for at least six months over the past year, or have spent a cumulative 18 months homeless over the past three years.

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The province spent $3 million this past winter to set up an emergency shelter in the multi-purpose centre of the Halifax Forum, with capacity for up to 100 beds. There are 355 emergency shelter beds in Halifax and 493 provincewide.

Maguire said capacity at the city’s shelters is “fluid day-to-day.”

“Some days they’re full, some days they’re not,” he said.

In March, Halifax dismantled and cleared out three encampments in city parks it had previously authorized for use by homeless people. The city has since done work to reclaim some of those sites, and new, undesignated encampments continue to grow.

There remain four green spaces that are designated as tenting sites by the municipality, but some are well over capacity. The grassy berm near Dalhousie University is recommended by the city to house six tents, but there were 27 in place as of Sunday morning.

Nearby residents say the encampment has led to a spike in noise and pests.

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