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Impact on Encampment Residents

Many organizations that work closely with the unsheltered homeless population have repeatedly highlighted several serious safety concerns. Seniors, women, youths, and vulnerable minorities are most at risk. Other than experiencing a lack of permanent housing, occupants of the tent encampments experience the following impacts:

  • Fires
  • Thefts
  • Violence
  • Trafficking
  • Hypothermia
  • Sexual assaults
  • Drug overdoses
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Carbon Monoxide poisoning
  • Mental health complications
  • Crime (petty, violent or organized)
  • Incarcerations and new criminal records
  • Risk of re-offending and returning to jail

A friend of mine almost lost her feet to frostbite a couple of weeks ago from falling asleep in a wet tent and spent four days at the hospital.

We really don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s been several occasions where we’ve called the police to provide support because there have been altercations that have broken out here.

A coworker of mine was badly assaulted, unprovoked near the ferry terminal in Halifax by a homeless woman. She was knocked to the ground unconscious and when she awoke there was medical aid attending to her. She didn’t know the woman who assaulted her nor did she engage in an argument with her prior to the assault, it was completely random. The incident also occurred in broad daylight.

Impact on Local Residents

The growth of encampments within the city’s residential areas, whether downtown, urban or suburban areas, significantly impacts everyone in the community. Local area residents have reported a variety of concerns and grievances, including:

  • Real and perceived decline to personal and public safety.
  • Crime, drug and alcohol use near children in schools, day cares, parks, playgrounds, and other family-oriented public spaces.
  • Intoxicated and mentally episodic individuals stumbling into busy traffic, risking accidents that may result in injury, death or destruction of property.
  • Increase in property crime, thefts from vehicles, other thefts, and vandalism.
  • Proliferation of hazardous waste such as needles, broken glass bottles (alcohol), and human waste from public urination and defecation.
  • Loss of recreational spaces and other public programming.
  • Loss of access to Grand Parade and Victoria Park, leading to the cancellation of the events conducted there, such as the Remembrance Day parade, the Spring Garden Children’s Festival, the NS Craft Market, the tree lighting ceremony, New Year’s events, the summer concert series, the delightful downtown lightshows, and other events that are valuable to local area residents and the public at large.
  • Reduction in property values.

Impact on Downtown Halifax

The downtown core is a city’s most valuable asset. Home to nearly 25,000 residents, downtown Halifax is also the “economic heart of HRM, housing almost half of the office jobs in the municipality and generating almost 20% of all commercial and residential property taxes in the city.” (About District 7 – Halifax.ca)

Tent encampments impede the ability of businesses in the downtown area to attract customers. Encampments within Grand Parade and Victoria Park have impeded the public’s ability to visit and enjoy these culturally significant sites, and caused the cancellation and relocation of several important events such as the Remembrance Day ceremony, the Spring Garden Children’s Festival, and New Year’s Eve concert.

These events are not only cherished and attended by residents of the downtown area, but by residents from all corners of HRM. The loss of these events has impacted the ability of ordinary citizens to remember the fallen, welcome the holidays, be joyous with their children, or celebrate the promise of new beginnings.

These events attract a significant number of people to the downtown area, which helps the many local businesses who are highly dependent on visitors to the area. Without these businesses, our vibrant downtown will significantly deteriorate.

By allowing encampments in the city’s downtown to exist and flourish, we are risking the erosion of decades of investment on the city’s cultural and tourism assets. As the image of downtown Halifax is marred by a flood of visible homelessness, negative perceptions of the area are rapidly spreading and becoming entrenched in the minds of those who might want to live downtown, visit downtown, shop downtown, do business downtown, or attend an event downtown.

As for those who already live or own businesses downtown, the impact is undeniable and inescapable. Vandalism is on the rise. Retailers have installed buzzers on their doors. Restaurants are harassed daily. Altercations with unhoused individuals are commonplace. Families hesitate to take their children to parks and playgrounds where encampments are nearby, or visit the cenotaph at Grand Parade, or walk down Victoria Park to see the fountain or read the names carved on its cobblestones.

I’ve operated two businesses in downtown Halifax over the past 7 years without a single incident, until November 2023. In the three months since, my businesses have been vandalized four times and stolen from twice. The encampments attracted an unprecedented crime wave to downtown Halifax. I fear for the future of my business if the encampments persist and grow. The appeal of downtown Halifax as a destination for tourism, shopping, dining, and entertainment is in jeopardy.

Get Involved

Homelessness impacts everyone. We support the rehousing of encampment residents to safer and more dignified accommodations. If no adequate shelter spaces are available, downtown encampments should be relocated to other designated camping sites to minimize the impacts on downtown residents, workers, visitors, tourists and local businesses. 

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