Halifax eyes modular homes for people living in tents or sheds

·3 min read
A tent is pitched in a small green space on Chebucto Road in Halifax in August. (CBC - image credit)
A tent is pitched in a small green space on Chebucto Road in Halifax in August. (CBC - image credit)

Halifax regional council has approved spending $3.2 million toward the purchase, installation and maintenance of modular units to accommodate people now living in tents and sheds.

The units will be set up in Dartmouth at Alderney Drive, near Church Street, and at a yet-to-be secured site in Halifax. The municipality anticipates the Dartmouth site could be ready by the end of this month, pending the arrival and set up of the units. It's not clear when people will be able to move in.

Coun. Sam Austin said there are already people in tents and sheds in the area.

"You have to meet people where they are," said Austin. "You can't stuff this in an industrial park."

"The municipality recognizes the urgent and serious challenges being faced by those experiencing homelessness," the municipality said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

"Treating people with dignity, while working to find ways to best support them within our capacity and scope as a municipality, is a top priority."

The city said the estimated costs to buy, install and maintain the modular units for the remainder of 2021 is $1.41 million, with operating costs of $20,000 for the Dartmouth site.

The estimated costs for the Halifax site would be $1.69 million, with operating costs of $20,000.

Halifax
Halifax

The Dartmouth site will have four modular units with a capacity for 24 people. The Halifax site will have up to six units housing 36 people.

On Tuesday, the province announced it will be providing about $2.7 million to Out of the Cold Community Association to deliver wraparound, supportive housing services to people staying in the municipality's modular housing units.

"Ultimately, this means 30 fewer people in our community are wondering where they will lay their head down at night, and we are grateful to be able to play a role in this with the province's financial support," Michelle Malette, executive director of Out of the Cold Community Association, said in a statement.

The association will provide services such as permanent housing solutions, mental health and addictions support, life stability and community connections, and employment support, the province said in a news release.

It will also offer personalized case management and resident programming in a supportive, harm-reduction focused setting. It will be offered to people who have been chronically homeless and are experiencing barriers to maintaining independent housing.

Halifax has already spent almost $161,000 for meals, hotels and utilities at the Gray Arena, where an Out of the Cold shelter is currently housed.

Occupants of Gray Arena will not be asked to vacate until alternate accommodations have been offered.

Once the modular units are installed at a Halifax site, the service providers working with the municipality and the province will be able to accommodate many of the people living in tents and temporary shelters, including those currently at Meagher Park.

In addition to these two sites, the municipality is also looking to provide accommodations for up to 70 additional individuals early next year.

According to a tweet by Coun. Waye Mason, setting up the modular housing units has been delayed by two to four weeks because the original ones the municipality had hoped to purchase "were not suitable for the intended purpose."

Mason said they could not be repaired quickly or inexpensively, so "alternative suppliers have been identified."

"This delay is heartbreaking and crushing and we are concerned about the weather and aware it's below zero at night," said Mason. "I know everyone is going to do what they can to move heaven and earth to get these modulars here before it snows."

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