More permanent solutions sought as Meagher Park eviction deadline passes

·3 min read
Victoria Levack is a volunteer at Meagher Park. She says more permanent solutions are needed to address the housing crisis in HRM. (Patrick Callaghan/ CBC - image credit)
Victoria Levack is a volunteer at Meagher Park. She says more permanent solutions are needed to address the housing crisis in HRM. (Patrick Callaghan/ CBC - image credit)

The deadline for people sheltering in Meagher Park to leave has come and gone, but a park volunteer says there are still people living there.

On July 5, HRM ordered people living at the park to vacate, citing plans for reconstruction. They gave people until July 17 to leave.

In an update posted online on Friday, the municipality said that all people sheltering at the park as of July 5 had been in discussions with staff about options.

The update also said staff would check back at the park after the 17th. If anyone was still sheltering there, they would work with them on a relocation plan.

Victoria Levack, a park volunteer, said the people living there were given housing options, but it's not a permanent solution.

"The people who got those options have said, 'You know, this is only temporary, we're going to stay for as long as we can.' But eventually they will be asked to move on. And they do plan to come back to this park," said Levack.

Patrick Callaghan
Patrick Callaghan

Levack said that since those people were relocated, a few more people have shown up to shelter at Meagher Park.

Last month, the municipality designated four sites — Lower Flinn Park, Barrington Street, Geary Street and Green Road Park — for outdoor sheltering. Levack hopes Meagher Park can be added to that list.

"These people are not here for fun, they're here for survival because they have nowhere else to go," Levack said.

If people refuse to leave the park after negotiation and settlement efforts, HRM will ask for Halifax Regional Police's help "as a last resort," according to the update.

Fence to go up once park vacated

The municipality plans to erect a fence around the park to start work once it is vacated.

Andrea Grace Kelly says some people formerly sheltering at Meagher Park have come to the designated park site at Barrington Street, where she is living in her tent.

She lost her home only a few weeks ago. She was living in a house not far away on Fuller Terrace.

"I loved my room," Kelly said. "I had a bookcase with tons of books."

She lived there for over three years. Her landlord sold the house and she was told she'd have to leave by July 1.

"I was never late on rent. He just decided to sell the house, and now I'm homeless, living in a tent."

Patrick Callaghan/ CBC
Patrick Callaghan/ CBC

She moved her belongings into a storage unit and slept there until she was told to leave. Then she stayed at the Brunswick Street Mission, until she came to the Barrington Street park sheltering site.

"I don't deserve this. I really don't. I always paid my rent. I worked my entire life. I don't deserve to be in this situation."

Kelly said she's seen lower-income housing disappear while expensive high-rise apartments are being built.

"There's a lot of homeless people here. And you know it's summer now so it's not so bad, but what are they going to do in the winter? What am I going to do in the winter?"

Planning for winter

HRM spokesperson Ryan Nearing said homelessness and housing challenges are primarily the province's responsibility.

He said the municipality recognizes that it also has a part to play, and is committed to addressing homelessness.

"The municipality's approach continues to be that everyone has a safe, supportive, and sustainable housing option," Nearing said in the statement.

Nearing said municipal staff are looking into potential indoor emergency shelters for winter if suitable housing options aren't available by then.

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