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GROWING PAINS: THE FACTS AND FICTIONS OF BEING HOMELESS IN THE THIRD

Money flowing from both federal and provincial governments to address the housing crisis seems to have the blood boiling for some in the Third.

 

The most recent example is the February 12 information session hosted by the provincial department of community services, New Dawn Enterprises and Ally Centre held in Whitney Pier to discuss the planned Pallet shelter village near Henry Street.

 

When our blood boils we often see red; sometimes we might even feel a blind rage. That is surely how some in attendance at the Ukrainian Hall were feeling that night. That might be why The Third staff couldn’t keep up with the irrational (and often uninformed despite all the paper in hand) comments, arguments and general perspectives flying around the room.

 

We decided to breakdown the night of yelling and screaming by unpacking some of the most heard or bizarre comments in the room. We then reached out to get some answers.

 

As it turns out we heard many fictional narratives created by some constituencies within the community.

 

“Busloads coming from Halifax”

 

The Fiction: The head office of the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services in Halifax is transporting “busloads of homeless people from Halifax” to the Third.

 

The Facts: The Third reached out to the department to get to the bottom of such claims that have been swirling around the Third for many months now.

 

According to Christina Deveau, spokesperson for the Department of Community Services, this is not a practice of the department.

 

“The Department of Community Services does not move groups of people experiencing homelessness to any other community, nor does any of its funded service providers,” said Deveau in an email to The Third.

 

“The department supports income assistance clients experiencing homelessness in several ways, including assisting with special diets, pharmacare and other medical costs, and some transportation – usually bus passes…or the transportation needed to get to things like medical appointments,” explained Deveau.

 

She did point out that in some situations funding is available for homeless individuals to return to their home communities,(emphasis added) including the Third.

 

“There are diversion supports available through some service providers where eligible individuals could receive funding for transportation to return to their home community or a place where they have confirmed housing. Diversion funding would be provided only if the person has a confirmed safe place to go,” said Deveau.

 

Two sources with knowledge of the community services programs and services confirmed to The Third that in some situations it would be possible for people living rough to save enough money from what they receive from community services, by going without something they need, to purchase a bus ticket.

 

There are also community services programs that assist clients to find employment. They say in some scenarios, assistance might be given to help get the person close to the employer. But it would have to be confirmed with the employer and the cheapest method of transportation would be provided.

 

They also reminded us that the clients of community services receive their income assistance payments regardless of where in the province they live. Clients also typically prefer to be close to available resources, they say, which are more plentiful in Halifax, suggesting that without a home and a job there are few reasons to hop on a bus heading to the Third. 

 

“The cruise ships aren’t coming here anymore because of the homeless people downtown.”

 

The Fiction: The Cruise Lines told the Port Authority that they are limiting their stops in Sydney due to the homeless and addicted populations in the area around the port.

 

The Facts: The Port of Sydney recently released its 2024 cruise schedule. Despite the chatter around town, this year the port plans to host a record number of ships for a third consecutive year, up 17 per cent from 2023.

 

According to the schedule, beginning on April 7, 115 ships are scheduled at the port until the last arrives, expected on November 2.

 

Seven of the ships will visit the port for the first time in 2024.

 

According to the new CEO of the Port of Sydney it is our reputation that is driving cruise ship growth. In the news release announcing the schedule, Lorna Campbell noted that it is, “our reputation among cruise passengers is what continues to drive our success and ability to generate significant economic benefits for our communities.”

 

The Port of Louisbourg’s cruise schedule remains unchanged from last year’s 10 ships.

 

“The Women’s Curling Championship might pull out because of the homeless people downtown.”

 

The Fiction: The World Women’s Curling Championship scheduled for March at Centre 200 is considering pulling out and finding an alternate location off island because it has heard complaints about the homeless and addicted populations in the area around Centre 200.

 

The Facts: The Third reached out to Curling Canada to get the facts on what seems to be the companion narrative to the cruise ship fiction. Here is what Al Cameron, Director, Communication & Media Relations for Curling Canada had to say about the upcoming championship.

“Curling Canada is aware of a homeless/addicted population across Canada and it's a big reason why we're excited about what hosting the World Women's Curling Championship can do for a host city such as Sydney,” said Cameron. “The event will generate a minimum $6 million in economic impact that benefits local businesses and produces tax revenue for the city that can be used, in part, to address the problems you raise.”

 

He also confirmed to The Third that Curling Canada has not heard any concerns from stakeholders or Thirders about the March event, nor are they considering moving the location of the event.

 

When Curling Canada looks to the upcoming world women’s championships, it is focused on the positive impacts of the event for the Third, not parochial rumours. 

 

“There are…legacy effects as well, as we reach out to youth and new Canadians to introduce them to curling and its lifelong health benefits. There is also increased exposure of the city through worldwide television broadcasts that will potentially increase future tourist visit,” said Cameron.

 

“The CEO of Pallet said that if we don’t want them, the shelters won’t go to the Pier.”

 

The Fiction: The CEO of Pallet, the company providing the shelters and determining many of the standards of service, has told at least one Pier resident that the shelter community will not be established in Whitney Pier.

 


Amy King, Pallet Shelter CEO Image from newdawn.ca


The Facts: If this were true it would have meant that some big news was revealed during the community meeting held earlier this month in the Pier about the proposed Pallet Shelter village off Henry Street and close to the popular Heritage Trail.

 

That news had The Third’s editorial staff’s ears perked, so we reached out to Pallet CEO, Amy King and asked directly if she had taken any calls from residents of the Pier and if she made such commitments.

 

“I do not have [a] record of any such conversation,” King said in an email to The Third. “Pallet does seek to assist responsible parties in facilitating community acceptance whenever and wherever possible. However, site selection is not something we are responsible for and is ultimately decided by the local or provincial authority.”

 

King was clear in the email exchange that Pallet does not determine the locations of where her company’s shelters will end up.  “We are not responsible for site selection. This is not something we are responsible for or have any control over,” said King in an email to The Third.

 

In fact, although Pallet does seek local acceptance, King is familiar with community resistance to her Pallet Shelter Village concept.

 

“It is not uncommon for people to be afraid of what they’re unfamiliar with – that’s basic human behaviour. I can say that prior Pallet sites that have faced community opposition initially eventually gained community acceptance shortly after opening,” said King. “Once residents can realize the benefits of the model, as an alternative to the current situation, we have seen sentiments change dramatically.”

 

“The Ally Centre got people addicted to drugs…there is no money in cures.”

 

The Fiction: The Ally Centre is responsible for what some say is a rise in the Third’s addicted populations. There is also the insinuation by some, that the Ally Centre benefits from having a addicted population.

 

The Facts:  We went back to King on this one since most of the people employed at Pallet have either struggled with addiction, experienced homelessness or has been incarcerated. In fact, she gives them credit for coming up with the idea to repurpose cabins created originally for disaster housing into homeless shelters.

 

“There is extensive evidence that providing rehab programs without corresponding access to shelter and/or housing are ineffective and a waste of resources. Data also shows that forcing people into recovery is wildly ineffective and does not bring success for people who are actively using substances and/or in need of mental health supports,” she told The Third.

 

That means that the Ally Centre’s programs and services are an important, even vital component, to the recovery of those who want it.

 

“Sheltering someone consistently, in a managed rehabilitative setting, allows service providers consistent access to their clients and the ability to identify windows for effective introduction of rehab programs that are far more likely to be successful,” said King. “People who are stably sheltered with dignity are far less likely to exhibit problematic behaviours and interactions because they are no longer operating out of survival mode.”

 

According to King, pallet shelter communities also provide security and safety for those who live in the villages.

 

“Many unhoused residents are vulnerable and preyed upon by people who take advantage of their vulnerability,” she said. “Providing people consistent access to shelter in a managed care environment will reduce unwanted predatory behaviour – this has been proven many times over in cities across North America.”



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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