Craig Stewart is one of several people sleeping rough in a Halifax park that has been renamed “People’s Park” by citizens and allies who support homeless residents.

“We all, in a way, stick together and we all try to be respectful. Especially from our neighbors, ”Stewart said.

People’s Park was established by people concerned about the housing crisis and police-led forced evictions from the Halifax camps on August 18.

“It’s nothing to us that one to four people show up here at night,” Stewart said of the growing number of people pitching their tent in the park.

READ MORE: HRM in the final stages of finalizing the Dartmouth location for the first round of modular housing units

The Halifax Regional Municipality plans to begin construction of some of the 24 modular units it has purchased with emergency housing funds recently approved by the Regional Council.

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The approval came after police-led evictions of sleeping people in city parks, resulting in widespread public backlash and criticism.

“From a public health perspective, and from a health care perspective, and from a human welfare and concern perspective, what has happened has no benefits, only downsides,” said Jesse Jenkinson, public health researcher. with the MAP Center for Urban Health Solutions in Toronto.

Jenkinson’s research focuses on the growing gaps in health and social services for people experiencing homelessness.

She says the growing number of police-led forced evictions of people sleeping rough in camps across Canada highlights the need for governments to start investing in supportive housing.

“What we really have to do is create spaces that people can move into. The camps exist because there is nowhere else people can go, “he said.

A wooden structure stands in a wooden area of ​​Dartmouth. Citizens concerned about Nova Scotia’s housing crisis erected the shelters earlier in the year.

Alexa MacLean / Global Halifax

Jenkinson says that residents who move into social housing settings, such as modular units, need a wide range of social supports to help stabilize their lives.

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“Supports for case managers, supports for harm reduction, supports for mental health, these are all really necessary social services to help keep people housed and maintain their well-being. Without these supports, people can fall back into homelessness, ”he said.

READ MORE: Petition Launched for Independent Investigation Into Halifax Police Actions During Shelter Evictions

The Halifax Regional Municipality is waiting for the provincial government to invest in comprehensive social support services for modular housing units.

The provincial government has recently stated that talks are underway on how to better support the municipality’s effort, but a financial commitment has yet to be made.

Meanwhile, homeless residents like Stewart continue to seek refuge in camp communities because he says they are often a safer option than traditional shelters that are overcrowded.

“They are more gathered like cattle, I mean, it’s not like there is a lot of privacy, people are together and there are tempers, and everything else that happens in those places,” he said.

Jenkinson is hopeful that national attention to the housing crisis will continue to pressure governments to begin responding to the ongoing need for supportive housing investments.

Stewart echoes his sentiment.

“There is a large group of people with, you know, mental illness, a large group of people who have a lot of needs, that will have to be addressed,” he said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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