Shelters, tents remain standing in Halifax park after community group faces police

·3 min read
Two wooden emergency shelters remained standing Saturday at a homeless encampment in Halifax's Meagher Park. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC - image credit)
Two wooden emergency shelters remained standing Saturday at a homeless encampment in Halifax's Meagher Park. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC - image credit)

A homeless encampment with shelters and tents in a small Halifax park is still standing after a peaceful community show of support Friday night, when a large crowd faced off against police.

Group spokesperson Sakura Saunders said hours after Halifax Mutual Aid set up a second wooden shelter in Meagher Park on the corner of Chebucto Road and Dublin Street on Friday, police showed up.

There were multiple police cruisers and a police van, Saunders said.

But after Halifax Mutual Aid announced on social media and via text messages that police were arriving, more supporters showed up, Saunders said.

Jeorge Sadi/CBC
Jeorge Sadi/CBC

Saunders said she spoke to officers as a police liaison for the group, and told them they had erected a second wooden shelter in the park to better protect people from the post-tropical storm expected next week.

The officers on scene made some phone calls. Eventually, police left the area.

"I think it was a great show of community support and a great show of power in numbers," Saunders said Saturday morning.

"It really was what we were hoping would happen Wednesday — that a show of community support would deter the police from taking down these shelters."

It was a very different outcome from what happened outside the old library site on Spring Garden Road Wednesday afternoon, when violence erupted and police with body armour and riot gear pepper sprayed people protesting the removal of tents and shelters set up on municipal property.

CBC
CBC

Chrissy Merrigan showed up Friday night to join the group protecting the shelters.

"We have some systemic issues in this city and I'm really tired of the Band-Aid solutions we've been receiving," said Merrigan, a social worker.

"I'm really tired of the apathy, I'm really tired of folks siding with contractors and developers and people making money, rather than looking at the root issues."

On Thursday and Friday, Saunders said people were monitoring the site to ensure no one dismantled the shelters.

There was also a steady stream of neighbours coming over to offer support, bringing by tents, tables, pizza, coffee and homemade cookies, she said.

On Saturday, people stretched out in the park grass under sunny skies, and used chalk to decorate the sidewalk with welcoming messages.

The Meagher Park site shows that encampments aren't necessarily public safety risks, Saunders said, contrary to what the police chief, mayor and councillors have repeatedly said.

Saunders said if criminal charges are connected to people living in some tents or shelters, as the police chief has said, they should be dealt with individually, but entire encampments shouldn't be destroyed.

"There is nothing inherent about needing shelter that means that you are dangerous," Saunders said.

She said there will be some type of community presence at the park until the municipality commits to not removing any more wooden shelters or clearing out people living in tents.

Mayor Mike Savage has said that outreach workers and the province have offered everyone living in the various shelters and tents an opportunity to move into temporary housing or a hotel for the immediate future.

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