People living in tents outside Halifax city hall at Grand Parade are being encouraged to move elsewhere because of safety concerns.
"In reviewing our winter operations for the upcoming snow season it was determined that there was, unfortunately, no way we could continue to have Grand Parade as a designated site and safely have folks shelter there," Ryan Nearing, a spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality, said in an interview on Monday.
"It's just not enough room when we're doing our snow-clearing operations."
Nearing said the decision was made last week. Although people have been living in tents at Grand Parade for months, it was only made a designated site for tents a month ago. That meant the municipality provided access to services like water, a place to use the bathroom and garbage pickup.
Nearing said there is no deadline to leave and if someone decides to stay, they'll be allowed to.
"This isn't an eviction, this isn't a forced removal, we're just letting those folks know that for their own safety it is in their best interest to look at other alternative locations," he said. "Municipal staff will be working with those who are currently sheltering there to make sure they're aware of those options."
In a statement issued by the HRM on Wednesday, the city clarified that its goal is to bring the number of tents at Grand Parade down to a maximum of eight, the same amount approved by council in October.
The city noted that a new emergency shelter has opened at the former St. Paul Church in Dartmouth, and there are other designated outdoor shelter locations available for those currently staying in Grand Parade.
"As other alternative locations and options become available, the municipality will reassess Grand Parade as a designated location," the statement said.
The city will continue to engage with residents of Grand Parade and offer assistance with moving if needed, it said.
People will be allowed to stay
Staff with the downtown Halifax navigator outreach program say they helped six people move out of the Grand Parade encampment and into a shelter last weekend.
David Vintock said he's been living at Grand Parade for a couple of months. He said it's unclear among people living there what municipal officials are planning to do.
"Last Friday they took our port-a-potty. We made a stink. They put it back. We're hearing they want us out of here due to snow removal or whatever," Vintock said. "But there's nowhere else for us to go.... They're going to have to arrest me. They're literally going to have to lock me up because I'm not moving."
There are 10 designated outdoor sheltering sites in HRM:
Barrington Street Greenway, 12 tents.
Beaufort Park, 4 tents.
Cobequid Ball Diamond, 12 tents.
Geary Street, 4 tents.
Green Road Park, 8 tents.
Lower Flinn Park, 4 tents.
Martins Park, 4 tents.
Saunders Park, 8 tents.
University Avenue, 6 tents.
Victoria Park, 12 tents.
Nearing said there will be a tree-lighting ceremony at Grand Parade, but the concert portion will be at Peace and Friendship Park. The reason for that, he said, is that the Saltwire Parade of Lights — which had to be postponed from last weekend to because of rainy weather — is now also scheduled for Nov. 25, "so that the Parade of Lights will end at Grand Parade where the tree lighting will take place."
Meanwhile, the municipality said an announcement will be made soon on whether it will host its annual New Years Eve event at Grand Parade.
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