Halifax regional council met on Tuesday with only one item on the agenda: homelessness in Halifax Regional Municipality.
The debate focused on Meagher Park off Chebucto Road, where after safety concerns were raised by people living in the neighhbourhood, the municipality closed the park and issued an eviction notice last month.
Tonight, councillors discussed the possibility of police removing the remaining residents.
Locals upset by fights, threats, slurs
Meagher Park, sometimes referred to as People's Park, has multiple small shelters built by volunteer activist groups such as PADS and Halifax Mutual Aid.
The staff report to council said many people come to the park because they see it as a quick solution to their housing issues, and it comes with a feeling of community and much needed resources like shelter, food and water brought by volunteers.
But others living in the community have been raising concerns about safety. Staff said there have been reports of fighting, noises, threats to neighbours, slurs, and other disturbing behaviour from the park.
Multiple councillors voiced their disapproval of the encampment and the groups running it.
Coun. David Hendsbee suggested making the park a construction zone and bringing machinery in to "show that we mean business."
"The situation at Meagher Park cannot continue. It's gone on too long and it's deteriorating," Coun. Sam Austin said.
Multiple councillors suggested groups were using homeless people as "pawns" for a political agenda.
Coun. Sean Cleary said, "I don't believe that most people who care about homeless people ... want a fight with the police. Those who do will probably get their wish."
"All orders of government have taken steps and I commend them for that," said Cleary.
Halifax police said they would help if called upon.
"The municipality is now at a point where they are considering exercising an option to call the HRP for assistance," said Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella.
"This decision will change the approach from non-enforcement-led to enforcement-led."
Volunteers say they need more time
Calista Hills, a volunteer at the park, says the city needs to provide more stable options for people or give them more time in the park to sort things out.
"For some folks, they want to stay because they have an option they think is better for them," Hills said.
Hills was disappointed to hear the city is considering calling on the police. Halifax Mutual Aid has expressed concerns on Twitter the situation could be similar to the clash that took place during the Aug. 18 eviction last year.
"Having police show up to clear out here just means people are moving to another spot and another spot and another spot. It's just shifting the problem."
The city estimated in its staff report that four or five people live in the park. Hills said it ranges more between three and nine.
Officials did not give a timeline regarding any decisions on police-led evictions.
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