**** HRM Media Release
Statement regarding homeless encampments on municipal property
The following is a statement from the Halifax Regional Municipality regarding homeless encampments located on municipal property and this morning’s presence of municipal staff and Halifax Regional Police officers in a number of municipal parks:
Over the last several months, the municipality has taken a progressive approach to education and awareness related to the installation of tents and temporary shelters in municipal spaces. These efforts have included ongoing offers of support and services through the Street Outreach Navigators and the housing support workers, posting signage in municipal parks and visits to sites by municipal staff, who have advised tent occupants that placing anything in a park for the purpose of temporary or permanent accommodation is not permitted.
Further, the municipality has worked with the Province of Nova Scotia as well as community-based partners including the Street Outreach Navigators and housing support workers, to offer those experiencing homelessness with support – including a range of housing options and/or temporary accommodation. The province continues to work to secure temporary accommodation options that can bridge to permanent housing. Temporary accommodation options – including hotel stays and shelter beds – are being made available to occupants of encampments located on municipal property.
Along with offers of support, including housing options and/ or temporary accommodation, the first step in our approach continues to be focused on education and we will use our enforcement options only if necessary.
The situation at a number of parks, due to the recent proliferation of tents, has created an increased risk to the health and safety of both the tent occupants and the public, and must be addressed. The municipality has received numerous reports from residents including public nuisance complaints and concerns for public safety. In light of this, steps were taken earlier this week to provide tent occupants with written notice to vacate and remove all belongings from municipal property immediately. The municipality is hopeful that occupants of homeless encampments will voluntarily vacate and remove their belongings from the parks.
This morning, Municipal Compliance officers are following up with tent occupants to aid the safe removal of tents from municipal parks. Staff members from Parks and Recreation and Halifax Regional Police are onsite to assist with removal efforts if required.
All members of the public have a right to use and enjoy the entirety of municipal parks, not just the portions otherwise occupied by temporary dwellings. With the safety of all residents as a top priority, it is the municipality’s obligation to address the hazardous conditions posed by this encroachment through appropriate enforcement of existing laws and regulations.
The municipality continues to balance its obligation to enforce the rules and regulations with its commitment to an empathy-based approach to homeless encampments that recognizes the human dignity of people experiencing homelessness. This approach does not condone or support the installation of infrastructure associated with encampments and requires that steps be taken to address demonstrated risks to the health and safety of occupants or the public.
As housing insecurity continues to be an issue in the region, work with community partners and other levels of government has significantly accelerated, and collaboration has expanded to help address both affordable housing and homelessness. For more information on the municipality’s approach to homelessness and initiatives to support affordable housing, visit our website.