Until recent major snowfall, Nova Scotia’s winter has been mild—but an outreach worker with Out of the Cold Halifax says despite the warmer weather, this winter has been excruciating for homeless people.
“Rain and snow is brutal for people living outside,” said Campbell Mcclintock, an outreach worker with Out of the Cold Halifax. “There are no accessible places where people can use a washer or dryer.”
Mcclintock is worried the homelessness crisis in Halifax is drifting from the public's attention.
“The healthcare crisis and the homeless crisis are intertwined,” said Mcclintock. “The more people living on the streets the greater the strain on health and mental health services.”
A survey from the fall indicated that there were 586 people experiencing homelessness on the peninsula and that 91 people out of them are unsheltered—that’s actively sleeping out in the elements.
“Those are just the people they surveyed, in my experience I believe that number is higher,” said Mcclintock.
There are currently four parks designated by the city for unsheltered people to live and set up legal encampments. Mcclintock and another social worker from Out of the Cold spend five days a week visiting all of these encampments.
Mcclintock says when visiting these encampments, he’s noticed a pattern for what causes homelessness, “The underlying issue is a pattern of landlords illegally evicting their tenants so they can raise the rents to much higher rates.”
“The current rental market is much higher than is able to afford on a living wage.”
Mcclintock says he has heard many stories of landlords using bullying, intimidation and threats to pressure tenants out of their properties so they can raise rents.
For tenants on a fixed term lease, landlords can also legally refuse to offer a new lease, forcing people out so they can raise rent. Legally getting around Nova Scotia’s two per cent rent cap.
“There is a new wave of low income people who have had any opportunity to rent completely eliminated from their life.”
Mcclintock says many of the homeless people he meets have income, many working 20-40 hours a week.
Mcclintock believes the province must act on creating more affordable housing quickly. But also says the need for temporary shelter and resources through the winter is dire.
“What’s brutal right now is not only the absence of affordable housing but the absence of resources for people living outside.”
With more rain and freezing rain expected through the winter, Mcclintock says services offering warming, laundry, and shelter are needed more than ever.
He also emphasizes that these are stopgap solutions, and calls on the province to do more about affordable housing.
“There is too much power in the hands of landlords and developers, and politicians profiting off of that relationship at the expense of people being able to afford a roof over their heads.”