More than a hundred people gathered in Grand Parade in front of Halifax’s City Hall Saturday morning to show their support for those without a home and to make a call for action.
Mutual Aid volunteer Campbell McClintock led the crowd in a chant.
“Leave tents and shelters, let them stand,” McClintock yelled out. “Stay out of the way if you can’t lend a hand,” the group called back.
“Pretty easy advice for the city to follow I think,” said McClintock.
The rally on Saturday was organized by a group known as P.A.D.S which advocates for permanent, accessible, dignified and safer housing for all.
“We are calling on a moratorium on evictions,” said P.A.D.S. volunteer Drew Moore.
He says that a moratorium would bring at least some stability and security to those experiencing homelessness until a better solution is found.
“There’s a lot of people who are feeling a lot of anxiety, feeling a lot of fear,” said Moore.
“If they get kicked out of this tent, out of this crisis shelter, what’s left for them, where’s left for them to go?”
The rally was held exactly one month after police were ordered to evict residents from tents and crisis shelters in downtown parks, including Peace and Friendship Park and the park near the old Spring Garden Road Memorial Library.
Those evictions were met with anger from many people in the area and a large protest quickly formed to try and prevent police from tearing down crisis shelters. That lead to clashes with police, culminating in numerous arrests and the use of pepper spray on protesters.
“Since police violently attacked and arrested protesters on Aug. 18 we have not seen homelessness disappear,” said McClintock.
While tents may no longer be visible in some parks, others do have a growing number of tents.
“On Aug. 18 there were two residents at People’s Park,” said Drew Moore. Now, he says, there are over two dozen people living in tents at that park and more people are coming every day.
“One thing that could really be helpful right now is to change the bylaw and allow people to shelter in tents and crisis shelters while they figure out how to provide housing for people,” said Moore.
No one from city council has said if that will happen but in a statement Mayor Mike Savage said, “my interest is in the voluntary relocation of people from encampments, working with service providers to find better alternatives.”
Following the evictions and protest in August, Regional Council approved $500,000 for emergency housing.
So far nothing has come from that money but on Friday it was announced that Halifax’s emergency manager had been appointed to lead the municipality’s response to homelessness and part of that will be using the half-million dollars to implement short, medium and long-term solutions to the situation.