The Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth is looking to keep the 20 tiny temporary shelters it built in December open this summer.
The eight-foot by eight-foot buildings were supposed to come down this week, but now they'll be up until at least the end August.
"As people are well aware in the city — and if they're not, they should be — that there's no place to go. There's no halfway houses, there's no transition homes, there's no boarding houses, there's no affordable apartments. The supply is really low right now," said John Stevens, project coordinator for the emergency shelters project.
Stevens and his team got in touch with municipal officials in Halifax to tell them they had to keep the shelters — which cost $11,500 each — open until August. "Otherwise people were just going to end up back in the parks," he said.
And worse, Stevens said they'd lose access to some of the services they've enjoyed for the past five months, such as regular meals and routine visits from support workers.
Stevens says the municipality agreed to renew the permits for another three months. One of the challenges now is to make the heated, metal-clad shelters — that were built to withstand snow and extreme cold — more comfortable in the summertime.
The plan now is to install air conditioners in each of the 20 units. Each air conditioner costs $1,500 — money that Stevens says the diocese has already raised.
The diocese is also set to hire a full-time coordinator to manage the shelters and clients. That coordinator will spend the next few weeks interviewing clients to find out how they're doing and what they need to help them move on.
Stevens says what he's learned over the past five months is that there is a long list of reasons why people might end up living rough.
"The reasons are as varied as the people," Steven says. "At the end of the next three months, if people still haven't been able to move, then we'll keep going."
Steven Moses currently calls one of the diocese's shelters home. He's been working for five years as a cashier at Walmart. The past three, he's been a full-time employee. But he says he still can't afford an apartment in Halifax.
"And that's been the best blessing I've had," Moses says. "The church has really taken care of us. We have heat. We have electricity. They come around every couple of days offering us either a meal or gift cards. And they've been really great with us, the members of the parish, with donated time and money."
Moses' small shelter sits on a large yard next to Saint Theresa's Catholic Church on North Street in Halifax. Outside he has a small table with three chairs and a bouquet of lilacs in a small vase.
"My plan is to find permanent accommodations," he says. "And I'm looking into it every day because although this is really great — it's not meant to be forever."
"... They encourage us to look for housing," Moses says. "But they said we can stay here, you know, as long as we need."
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