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Deadline to vacate some Halifax homeless encampments arrives

Five homeless encampments in Halifax must be vacated today after the municipality removed the special designations that allowed people to set up tents in those locations.

The city had asked earlier this month that unhoused people staying in tents at five of 11 authorized encampments leave by Feb. 26.

It said the encampments, including one at the downtown Grand Parade, pose a safety risk and that better options are available.

The city said on Friday that 25 of the approximately 55 people staying at the five encampments have accepted indoor shelter.

The municipality said service providers were discussing “appropriate indoor sheltering” with those who remained, but some unhoused people have previously said they won’t leave by the city-imposed deadline.

In October, the Halifax Regional Municipality designated 11 sites around the city as tenting areas for people without housing as a stop-gap measure until better indoor options became available.

City officials have said these options include hotel rooms, transitional housing and more emergency shelter beds.

Nova Scotia recently opened a $3-million emergency shelter at the Halifax Forum, but some unhoused people said the facility is worse than a tent because it lacks privacy and security.

Halifax’s chief administrative officer Cathie O’Toole said on Feb. 7 that the city hopes unhoused residents will leave the five encampments voluntarily before Feb. 26.

“But if we do get to the point where we have someone who is refusing to move beyond the notice, we do have the legal authority to remove people,” O’Toole said at the time.

In August 2021, a demonstration in downtown Halifax turned violent after police were directed by the city to clear public grounds of tents and temporary wooden shelters built by advocacy groups for the homeless.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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