Back in the summer my partner and I heard about the evictions happening at the Halifax Library and went down to bear witness. Here are a few of the photos I took.
It was a huge turning point for HRM as it sparked a ton of attention (Turkeys from airplanes for sure) about the homeless crisis in the city.
Things are definitely on a much more positive trajectory now and I’m so excited that the portables will open today (January 12) in Dartmouth!
Last night I watched the portion of the January 11th council meeting dedicated to the modular housing, and one thing that I thought was very positive was Tony Mancini’s suggestion that HRM has a summit on homelessness. My general impression from council is that the members want to help, and may be a few steps removed or naïve about the circumstances that some people live under so keep in touch keep conversations flowing and be kind. We need to build community. Maybe I watched too much Sesame Street in the 70s…I dunno but I digress…
Anyway, there are many great partner organizations to bring into the discussion as he mentioned, but there are also key individuals who could add a lot of knowledge.
Rachelle Sauve, is one person they may want to bring into the conversation. She moved to Halifax in the summer and in my opinion is a wonderful addition to our community of HRM with her strong background in grassroots anti-poverty work. She volunteers extensively at the People’s Park helping to distribute donations, being a friend to residents, and cleaning up the site. I personally think it would be very beneficial to invite her to any conversation the city or province wants to have about how to help the roughly housed population. I attended a workshop she conducted at the People’s Park this summer and it was incredibly informative and eye opening. Smart lady! There are a number of other people who volunteer at the park who may also be good to speak with about the situation on the ground and how the community can help.
At any rate, governments are not really in the business of making things better, unless the voters ask for it. Community fixes things so roll up your sleeves and talk to your politicians too please.
Last week some of my friends gave me donations to bring to the people who are tenting in various locations throughout HRM.
Not everything I received was easily donated but I did get it all figured out and still working on finding more information.
If you drop by Meaher Park to bring donations make sure what you bring is something they can use as they have no storage space, no ability to cook, and unless it’s cold, no refrigeration. If you go by during the day there is a good chance you may encounter a volunteer from the community or a resident you can speak with. You can leave things there if nobody is around but be aware that the wrong donations are almost as bad as no donations.
Unless there is a direct request for the specific day cooked meals are not a good donation. If they are not eaten they end up in garbage and attract rodents and odors. Snacks like Granola Bars or other single serving snacks more useful.
$10 Gift Cards for places like Tim Horton’s or MacDonalds or anywhere else someone might get an inexpensive beverage or food and a chance to warm up also good, especially when it’s cold out. If there are places nearby that are open 24 hours also good for people to get out of the elements for a bit.
Specifically at the People’s Park they can use firewood. A proper firepit was donated by some firefighters and it helps keep the area warm.
For all the tenting sites or areas you find people who are roughly housed these are often very useful donations.
- personal care wipes
- garbage bags
- rubber boots
- paper towels
- underwear (long johns and tights in winter)
- warm gloves (not mittens)
- disposable gloves (for site cleanup)
- AA and AAA batteries
- Jogging Pants and Hoodies (mens Large often the winning size but inquire if you can)
- backpack (empty, with working zippers)
- winter sleeping bags
All of this is fluid, and I recommend speaking with people on the ground if you are able. I’m sure they could also use more physical volunteers from the community if you can spare a few hours.
There are things they have too much of at the tenting locations, and no ability to store such as feminine protection, deodorant and other personal care items/toiletries that may be donated to other locations. I’m trying to find out who accepts these items and you could check with organization and food banks in your area as well.
There are a couple of spots where roughly housed people can take showers or do laundry. There are set hours which may change and appointments may be needed.
the Hub – operated by Shelter Nova Scotia
Trying to find out who accepts pet supply donations for the roughly housed pet owners?
One thing that really irks me is that some organizations require people to have a fixed address to access services. I found this was the case with the Eastern Passage foodbank and have voiced my concerns and trying to find solutions.
If you check this guide from Feed Nova Scotia on how to find food in the province you will see they are quite under-represented in many low income communities. If you type in your community in the locator, you may be surprised!
You really need to think outside of the box, and for the current times. Many things that worked years ago simply do not work anymore.
Please get in touch with any information you have.
So what about the people who are still living in tents when it’s -10 and getting colder? Good question that nobody seems to have answers to. I’ve heard murmurs of frostbite circulating and would expect no less in January in Nova Scotia.
There will always be a very small percentage of the population who for varying reasons, will not come inside. As of January 15th there are still 4-5 people sleeping in Meagher’s Park in tents, and the other 20 or so are still outside but who knows where. Likely different spots every night near any wind resistant area or heating vent they can access. I’m sure there are people who do have ideas about how to help these people. Housing for all is the resounding answer from people who work with our marginalized population, and really shouldn’t we all have some type of housing?
CBC just posted an article about Finland’s success in ending homelessness and Finland is not the only country to have made great headway so there is hope.
I found Friends of Boston’s Homeless on a recent web search and wonder if we might start a similar organization here in Halifax?
Also there is a lot of talk about defunding the police these days and a lot of people don’t like that idea. Often it’s because they are stuck in their sick desire for punishment that is deeply seated in culture (don’t let me go down this road it will be ugly) or just because they don’t understand what is really means. The thing to focus on is refunding social services and letting police do policing, and let the people who have other expertise answer those calls for help. The police are more than happy not to have to deal with non-police matters, I assure you.
When doing a little research on poverty I came across the idea of the 3 P’s – Policing- Prisons-Poverty and it makes a lot of sense as they rarely produce good outcomes and are quite obviously interconnected. You really need to get to people before they are on the street to make any headway.
I am not comparing people to pets in any way but I do come from a strong background in animal rescue/animal welfare and a friend who was the director of a well known shelter used to say that by the time a pet is surrendered to us it’s on it’s last chance. If it doesn’t get to us, it has likely run out of chances.
Nobody in Canada should be running out of chances.
The pandemic points out a lot of inequity in our systems. We have the opportunity to do better so let’s roll up our sleeves.
One serious question though…where are the feds in this mess? There are almost certainly federal regulations and tax structures that fuel the housing crisis. Also, the CHMC gets in the way of affordable builds. More top down think-tanking needs to be looked at not my area of expertise but I do love learning.
All the best for 2022…we can do this HRM!
PS – cash is still king. You may not feel comfortable giving people cash, I don’t in fact. But you can give money to partner organizations who have boots on the ground and know it will get to people.