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Demonstrators in Halifax demand housing plan before city tears down crisis shelters

A demonstration was held Sunday afternoon in downtown Halifax amid claims that the municipality is offering residents of emergency shed-type shelters two weeks in a hotel in return for leaving their shelters so they can be demolished. Amber Fryday/Global News

A demonstration was held in front of an old public library in downtown Halifax on Sunday, demanding the municipality not remove wooden crisis shelters until they have a plan to help the unhoused.

There have been about 13 of the wooden sheds built by volunteers.

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

Advocates with a group called Halifax Mutual Aid say the municipality is trying to get people to vacate the structures in exchange for two-week hotel stays so that the structures can be demolished.

“What that means for these people is that they’re losing the small amount of autonomy and safety and shelter that they have in these shelters only to get something that’s slightly more removed,” said Campbell McClintock, a spokesperson for the group.

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“It’s essentially removing their housing without any guarantee or potential for having something in the future. The city is not being transparent on what their plan is.”

Click to play video: '13 crisis shelters built by Halifax volunteers will be removed' 13 crisis shelters built by Halifax volunteers will be removed
13 crisis shelters built by Halifax volunteers will be removed – Jun 17, 2021

McClintock says the group will continue to build these shelters until a long-term plan is brought into fruition.

Hundreds gathered at the demonstration on Sunday, where a homeless encampment is set up, to show their support.

Last week, the municipality wouldn’t give Global News a timeline for the removal of the shelters, but a spokesperson said occupants will be given notice to leave beforehand.

Meanwhile, Mayor Mike Savage said the municipality is trying to come up with solutions.

“We’re talking to community groups, social agencies, we’re trying to talk to the people who put the sheds up,” he said.

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Between 2013 and 2020, the province spent more than $2.7 million on hotel stays. However, the figure is an estimate because the amount of overall money spent on hotel stays isn’t directly tracked, a Freedom of Information document shows.

“If the best we can do is provide dollars to house them temporarily, then that’s what we do. It’s not a perfect solution,” said Geoff MacLellan, the province’s infrastructure and housing minister.

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