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Call to keep Halifax-area campgrounds open into fall amid housing crisis

Call to keep Halifax-area campgrounds open into fall amid housing crisis
Call to keep Halifax-area campgrounds open into fall amid housing crisis

Halifax resident Mel Ellsworth has fallen on hard times and is now one of the city’s many homeless people.

“I don’t like living like this, but since July 1st this has been my home,” he said of his tent pitched on Halifax’s Grand Parade.

Before that, Ellsworth worked as a cleaner at Stadacona for nearly 34 years.

He said neighbours forced him out of the building where he lived in north Halifax.

Ellsworth subsequently stayed with family in Newfoundland and then went to seek out friends in Ontario before returning to Halifax.

He is now waiting until he can go to a shelter.

“Once I’m in the shelter, it helps me get through the winter, but that’s not my thing. I don’t like moving to places like that,” Ellsworth said.

He is not alone.

“Homelessness and affordable housing are in crisis right now,” said Halifax Regional Municipality Councillor Tony Mancini.

“We all have to do it. All governments have to do it. Our colleagues, our partners at the province really have to do their best and start building the social housing that is missing.”

Mancini represents Dartmouth East. He said he has been contacted by people staying in mobile homes at local campgrounds, asking the city to keep the Shubie Campground open through the winter.

“They all work and can’t find an affordable apartment or house, so they bought a mobile home and can live there temporarily,” Mancini said.

The only obstacle is that the campsite is not winterized, which means there is no water for the washroom or the launderette.

“There are about 22 locations that would be very suitable for hooking up a trailer. If we can get the water supply sorted, I think we’re in good shape,” Mancini said.

Time is of the essence. Campgrounds typically close over Thanksgiving weekend.

Last year, Halifax was the second fastest growing city by population size and its vacancy rate remained around one percent, the second lowest in the country.

Mancini said some relief is on the way, with 7,700 units under construction. Another 4,300 are awaiting permit approval.

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