Fifty-seven-year-old Gerry Ackroyd is among 123 Nova Scotians living in a hotel room provided by the provincial government, something he says he never thought he’d have to do.

“There’s people out there that are hardworking people, that are down on their luck,” says Ackroyd, “case in point.”

He says hard times hit after he says he was evicted from his duplex over a power bill dispute with his landlord.

“Because I owed $3,900 on a bungalow. There’s no way I could owe $3,900 on a bungalow.”

He says he had to give his pets up, had to leave many of his belongings behind, and was left homeless. Ackroyd couch surfed at first, but then ran out of places to go.

A construction worker without a vehicle — he says it’s hard to get work.

He’s been living in a hotel room provided by community services since January.

“I’m glad that I have it,” he says. “But in the same aspect, here in Halifax, we’ve got what? Five places that people can go, but it still doesn’t help everybody.”

The Department of Community Services has been providing hotel stays to those in need for years. In 2021, it cost the province $1.5 million.

Minister of Community Services Karla MacFarlane says housing support workers assist every individual staying in a hotel, with the goal of finding them a place to live.

“We have made what I would consider really strong investments into developing and building attainable housing throughout the province, we know it’s not going to happen overnight,” says MacFarlane.

The current shortage of affordable housing in the province, however, means finding sustainable housing for those who need it has become more challenging.

Something you don’t have to tell Ackroyd, who’s living on $380 a month in income assistance.

“They have people saying, ‘this is what we should do, this is what we should do,’” he says. “I don’t know what you have to do to help the people, but do something.”

“I want to work, but I can’t go to a job and say, ‘I live in a hotel,’” he adds.

The Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia (AHANS) says there are more than 500 people who are homeless, and the reasons vary.

“Homelessness has definitely changed over the past two years,” says Monika Hintz of AHANS.

She says while there are still individuals who have been struggling with long-term housing issues, there are also more people who are newly homeless.

She says they’re also seeing more people who are still employed, along with more seniors, families, and young couples.

“It’s affordable housing, it’s food pricing, it’s financial insecurity,” says Hintz. “We need to be supporting people with what they need versus what we think they need.”

The city of Halifax continues to work on solutions for its residents. The municipality’s second modular shelter site — co-funded by the province — received its occupancy permits last month.

Tuesday night, city council also gave the green light to a staff report on allowing temporary tenting in parks, minus an original provision for single overnight stays.

But Dartmouth-area councilor Tony Mancini says the city can’t do it alone.

“With all due respect to the province, it’s been 30, 40 years since they’ve built any social housing, governments of all parties haven’t done it, so that’s a big challenge,” says Mancini.

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