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Citizen group wants any future tent encampments in Halifax to be outside of downtown

Fencing has been put up around the grassy areas of Grand Parade. The last person who was living there has moved into indoor housing. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)
Fencing has been put up around the grassy areas of Grand Parade. The last person who was living there has moved into indoor housing. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)

Now that nobody is living in Grand Parade and Victoria Park in downtown Halifax, a group is calling on the city to only allow any future encampments to be established outside of the downtown core.

Friends of Downtown Halifax is petitioning the city after the municipality announced the last person living at Grand Parade left earlier this week.

The group is particularly concerned about the summer months because officials are anticipating more tents to pop up. They say the encampments have had a negative effect on business.

Issmat Al-Akhali, a founding member of the group, said the goal is to have possible new sites identified outside the downtown and to have potential host communities consulted.

"We have found people passed out and overdosing in our lobbies," Al-Akhali told Radio-Canada in an interview Friday. "We found used needles. We've had to call ambulances once or twice.

"So, this is not a situation that a lot of businesses have signed up for when they opened businesses in downtown Halifax. And it's not a situation that invites customers and tourists to the area."

Grand Parade was one of three major encampments in the Halifax area to fully empty out. The others were Victoria Park in downtown Halifax and Correctional Centre Park in Lower Sackville. But tents have popped up on University Avenue.

Issmat Al-Akhali is the founding member of Friends of Downtown Halifax.
Issmat Al-Akhali is the founding member of Friends of Downtown Halifax.

Issmat Al-Akhali is the founding member of Friends of Downtown Halifax. (Radio-Canada)

Mayor Mike Savage told Radio-Canada on Friday that the city has been working with the province to help find homeless people better locations to live.

He said those behind the petition should talk to the province "because homelessness is a provincial issue" and "thank the folks who had cleared these parks and found locations for other people."

"They wanted us to close the encampments of places like Grand Parade and Victoria Park. We've done that. It doesn't mean the housing crisis is over. Nobody can create that on their own."

Halifax's Grand Parade is now closed for cleanup after the last person who was living at the tent encampment there accepted an indoor housing option from the province.
Halifax's Grand Parade is now closed for cleanup after the last person who was living at the tent encampment there accepted an indoor housing option from the province.

Halifax's Grand Parade is now closed for cleanup. It is expected to reopen by the summer. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Savage said the work doesn't stop.

"As the weather warms up, there will be people who are homeless. Our goal is to try to find locations for them to live that suit what they need and also allow for public spaces to be used by everybody in the city."

In a news release on Thursday, the city said it expects Grand Parade will reopen to the public by the summer.

Parts of Grand Parade are fenced off for clean up efforts. There is a thoroughfare between Barrington and Argyle streets. There is also access to St. Paul's Church and Halifax's city hall.

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage says the city has worked with the province to help find better locations for people living rough to live.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage says the city has worked with the province to help find better locations for people living rough to live.

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage says the city has worked with the province to help find better locations for people living rough to live. (Radio-Canada)

The city estimates there are 44 people sleeping rough in four designated locations. It says the people living there are being offered support and resources.

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