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Letter to city hall regarding tent encampments in downtown Halifax

We the undersigned hereby express our support for the current eviction notice issued by the city to downtown encampments. We further request that the city of Halifax commits to enact the law and enforce the clearance of all tents currently occupying the Grand Parade Square and Victoria Park no later than the announced eviction deadline of February 26, either to an adequate shelter or to a different designated site outside the downtown core.

In addition, we call on the city to provide a clear plan that outlines how downtown residents, businesses, workers and visitors will be actively protected from future illegal tenting that is anticipated to occur this summer. No such plan was in place in 2022 when current encampments took hold.

Relocations to shelters or other designated camping sites must be conducted while respecting the reasonable requirements of encampment dwellers, such as bodily autonomy, freedom of movement, partner/family/pet unification, safety, storage, and sanitation. The services currently provided at the encampments should continue at the new locations. The new locations should also allow for the delivery of additional wrap-around services as they become available.

As we brace against the coldest months of the year, outdoor living has become a hazard to those sleeping rough within the encampments, leading to deadly consequences.

Incident Date Incident Description Incident Location
 November 12, 2023
Tent Fire Wyse Road Dartmouth
November 21, 2023 Explosion + 5 Tent Fires
Below bridge Overpass
Downtown Halifax
November 28, 2023 Death in tent. Suspected carbon monoxide poisoning from propane tank. Wyse Road Dartmouth
December 7, 2023 Tent Fire
Victoria Park
Downtown Halifax
December 9, 2023 Tent Fire Grand Parade Downtown Halifax
December 10, 2023 Tent Fire
Wyse Road
Dartmouth
December 15, 2023 Death in tent. Suspected drug overdose. Grand Parade Downtown Halifax
December 29, 2023 Death in parkade.
Cogswell Tower
Downtown Halifax
January 22, 2024 Tent Fire + Injury Grand Parade Downtown Halifax

For all other designated sites in HRM, we further request that the city either similarly relocate encampments to less-disruptive areas, or enforce its own recommended maximum tent limits, which were set by HRM council in October 2023. These limits reduce overcrowding and increase the safety of residents of the encampments and surrounding communities. No such enforcement has been taking place since October.

Unsheltered homelessness has an impact on everyone. Local area residents, businesses and the public at large are also suffering the growing effects of homeless encampments. At their current locations, these encampments prohibit the use of the public spaces they occupy, while compromising the safety of the area’s residents, workers, visitors and businesses. This impact on the lives of local residents and the livelihoods of local businesses has reached a breaking point.

We implore decision makers at all levels of government to step up their efforts and display the leadership, courage, and urgency needed to firmly enforce the relocation of downtown encampments by the stated deadline, to locations that provide similar or better conditions.

Better solutions and more desirable locations may exist in the future, but we must not sacrifice what is possible now to wait for what might be perfect later. 10 fires, three deaths and one burn injury in the span of three months this winter should motivate all to take action now.

Respectfully,

——–

The Undersigned

 

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