Halifax modular units ready for occupancy, but staff still needed

·4 min read
The modular units are ready for occupancy on Cogswell Street in Halifax. Work is underway to hire and train the staff needed to provide 24/7 supports at the site. (CBC - image credit)
The modular units are ready for occupancy on Cogswell Street in Halifax. Work is underway to hire and train the staff needed to provide 24/7 supports at the site. (CBC - image credit)

It may still be several more weeks before people experiencing homelessness are able to move into the new modular trailers at the Centennial Pool parking lot in Halifax.

The Halifax Regional Municipality has completed the work on the units and has issued occupancy permits for them, but staff still need to be hired to run the operation.

The organization, Out of the Cold, chosen by the province to provide support services to those who will be moving in, is busy trying to recruit the people it needs to work at the site.

"We're still in a very active phase of our hiring. We need to hire maybe another 15 more staff," said Michelle Malette, the executive director. "We're still going through references and doing interviews every day."

Malette said it would not be realistic to set a move-in date, and that it would not be in the next two weeks because training is a requirement for all staff after they're hired.

Halifax modular units will accommodate 38 people

The Out of the Cold Community Association will be responsible for 24/7 support services at the site, as it is at the location in Dartmouth, where 26 people have been housed in the modulars there.

The province outlined the services that will be available include mental health and addictions support, life-stability programming, as well as peer support and help in making community connections.

There are 38 single-occupancy rooms included in the nine modular units at the Centennial Pool parking lot off Cogswell Street. Two are designed for people who have limited mobility or use wheelchairs.

All the units have been connected to power and water.

Construction on the communal kitchen has also been completed, although cabinetry has yet to be delivered, so alternatives like temporary shelving and tables are being considered.

'Fastest construction of anything in HRM'

Mayor Mike Savage said the service provider, Out of the Cold, would be in the best position to discuss the staffing component but stressed the project has come together in a short timeframe considering the complexity of it.

"These modulars have gone up in probably the fastest construction of anything in HRM over the last year. There wasn't even such a thing as modulars for people who are unhoused until well into the fall," he said.

HRM staff, the province and Out of the Cold have worked hard together to create an environment that will give an opportunity at a better life for a number of people, he said.

"Obviously we'd like things to be geared up as soon as possible and give people a chance to move in there, particularly from Meagher Park," Savage said, adding the support services are an important part of the strategy of helping people adjust to their new surroundings.

David Laughlin/CBC
David Laughlin/CBC

Outreach workers have been trying to identify the people who are hoping to get the keys to the units.

There's a lot of interest from some of those currently in encampments, such as Meagher Park off Chebucto Road where people have been camping through the winter, according to Eric Jonsson, a social worker with the Navigator Street Outreach Program.

"They're so visible, now everybody who walks by the pool and sees these modulars they're like, 'Oh, I'd like to move in there,' so I get a lot of people asking me," Jonsson said, noting he is referring people to Out of the Cold as a next step.

The fact people will have to wait a little longer than they may have been hoping is not something he's too concerned about.

"If we delay things by a couple of weeks or a couple of months, hopefully it will mean we will have better programs for people and we'll give people the kind of dignity and support that they need," he said.

CBC
CBC

While he sees the units as a significant step forward, Jonsson points out much more housing is still needed in the region with so many still needing affordable places to stay.

Five hundred and seventy people were identified as homeless in HRM as of May 3, according to the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia. More than 400 of those are believed to have been without a home for six months or more.

As challenging as it is to install, construct, staff and move people into the trailers, Malette is confident they will make a big difference, as is already happening at the site in Dartmouth.

"People are just so happy to have their own space and to be able to count on something as simple as a washroom when you want to use a washroom," she said. "Having a door that locks for yourself and access to showers and food and things like that are really important."

Halifax regional council has estimated the cost of the modular units in Dartmouth and Halifax to be $4.36 million.

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