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N.S. contributes $6.4M to affordable housing projects in Halifax, Annapolis Valley

Click to play video: 'Halifax outreach workers say insecurely housed people need access to affordable units, not temporary shelter beds' Halifax outreach workers say insecurely housed people need access to affordable units, not temporary shelter beds
While the province recently announced more shelter beds will be added to the system to address increased demand, those who work on the housing frontlines say shelters highlight a long-standing problem. Alexa MacLean reports. – May 12, 2021

Nova Scotia is contributing $6.4 million to “create permanent supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness in Halifax and the Annapolis Valley,” the province announced in a news release Monday.

The Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia will receive $3.5 million to buy properties in the Halifax area “that will provide housing for people with the highest needs who might otherwise remain homeless.”

Another $1.8 million will go toward operational costs and on-site client services like clinical care, peer support and addictions and mental health support.

Read more: N.S. needs bigger push to remedy decades of neglect in non-profit housing: study

“When you are experiencing homelessness, secure and supportive housing is the starting point for turning your life around,” said Jim Graham, the executive director of the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, in a release.

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“The pandemic has created additional challenges for already vulnerable homeless people, and this investment will make a profound difference in addressing the lack of supportive housing for people who are now unhoused in our community despite all available resources.”

Despite what he describes as there being “never enough,” Graham said in an interview Monday that “it would be huge to put that much money into the system to support the most vulnerable.”

“It’s very significant and very welcome, for sure,” he said.

Read more: Nova Scotia promises $1.8M to three Halifax affordable housing groups

“That money for those services, the purpose would be to keep people securely out [of homelessness] so they can maintain and sustain their housing. There’s a segment of the population that needs that kind of support to keep their housing stable, and that’s exactly what that’s intended to do.”

He also said the money will go into buying current buildings, and not new construction, because of how long that can take.

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The province will also give $1.1 million to the Portal Youth Outreach Association, which will be used to create new transitional houses for people experiencing homelessness in the Annapolis Valley.

The houses in Middleton, Kentville and Windsor are supposed to be ready by fall 2021. They are slated to provide housing and supports related to school and career planning for 14 youth between the ages of 16 and 21.

Read more: Nova Scotia committee hears housing crisis isn’t just a Halifax issue

“Youth transitional housing is key in the housing continuum and we are looking forward to a significant change in our response to youth that find themselves homeless,” said Russ Sanche, the association’s executive director, said in a release.

“Having this step for youth transitioning to adulthood will provide a needed option to help with the stress that comes from family breakdown and couch surfing.”

Young people will be able to stay in the houses from three months to three years, depending on their needs.

According to the province, a homelessness count from October 2020 reported 51 youth experiencing housing instability and homelessness in the Annapolis Valley.

Plan to address homelessness

The release said this funding is part of a province-wide effort to create more housing for Nova Scotians experiencing homelessness, and to create more options for permanent supportive housing.

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The province also recently contributed $553,000 for permanent supportive housing for 14 men at two locations in Cape Breton.

It also spent $350,000 to add 15 temporary shelter beds in Halifax, and $100,000 for a community study focusing on creating permanent housing options for up to 100 women and children.

Read more: N.S. needs funding boost for low-cost housing in ‘perfect storm’ of shortages: report

The release said the province has made “significant progress” under the Integrated Action Plan to Address Homelessness, which was introduced in February of last year.

From April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021, it said 952 people were housed across Nova Scotia, compared to 567 in 2019-2020.

The province also said it identified 383 people as being actively homeless in the Halifax region as of May 25, compared to 490 on Dec. 8, 2020.

On Monday, the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission released a report calling on the province to swiftly invest $25 million to support 600 to 900 households in finding reasonably priced, safe accommodation.

The report says rising housing costs, high energy costs, a growing population and Nova Scotia’s high poverty rate created a “perfect storm” last year that pushed the housing system to a breaking point.

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— With files from Matthew Byard and The Canadian Press

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