A handful of residents staying at Meagher Park in Halifax left the site Monday after being told to vacate by Halifax Regional Police.
Meagher Park, also known as People’s Park, is located on Chebucto Road. Unhoused people have been staying there since the police-led encampment evictions in August 2021.
This summer, councillors designated four municipal park sites where unhoused people could set up tents, but also said those staying at Meagher Park would have to leave by July 17.
Although the deadline has passed, a few residents remained at the site, along with some supporters.
Last week, the municipality made an official request to police to enforce a vacate order at the park.
Then, on Friday, more than a dozen organizations that worked with unhoused people made a number of recommendations for an “alternative path forward” — one that does not involve police-led evictions.
However, officers could be seen at the park Monday morning, talking to the remaining residents and asking them to leave.
‘They’re picking on the homeless’
Nathan Thorburne, who’s been living at the park for about two years, said a Halifax Regional Police officer stopped him Monday morning to say they were “suiting up,” and would be returning to the park with officers from police forces in Cape Breton and Truro.
“It’s a sin that we have to leave. They’re picking on the homeless,” said Thorburne, 31. “This is where we live, this is what we know.”
He, along with his girlfriend and a friend who were also staying at the park, decided to leave to avoid confrontation with the police.
“I’m sad to leave here, yes, really sad,” said Thorburne. “I love this park, I was safe in this park. I feel like now I got to watch my back more in the street.”
Thorburne said he and his companions are moving to one of the city’s designated outdoor sheltering sites.
While he liked staying at Meagher Park, he said the new location should meet his needs.
“The cops were like, ‘Well, if we move you to another place, we’ll give you McDonald’s, and give you packs of cigarettes, and we’ll give you a ride there,'” he said.
“They gave us a new tent, air mattress and sleeping blankets … there’s going to be a lot of food and a lot of stuff. No drama starts down there.”
Halifax Regional Police declined to provide an interview Monday, but spokesperson Const. John MacLeod said in a statement that police “have an obligation to public safety for all involved and are committed to every effort towards a peaceful eventual exit.”
“We continue to work with HRM and others as needed,” he said, adding that further questions should be directed to the city. The city did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
MacLeod also said that officers were in the area of Meagher Park around 7:30 Monday morning, “where they arrested a man in relation to an ongoing domestic assault investigation,” but did not provide further details.
Residents in the area say they’re hoping for a peaceful resolution — but one that happens quickly.
“There’s been a lot of stress for a lot of us, so we’re feeling a bit of relief,” said one woman who lives nearby.
“It certainly has not been safe across the street for some time now, so I feel relief that individuals are going to, perhaps, get the help they need and be in a safer place tonight.”