Halifax Search and Rescue recently took on a new role – on nights when the mercury drops or a storm hits, the city has tasked volunteers to watch those living on the streets.
This weekend marked the seventh time that volunteers had come out.
Walking through the woods of a park in the Halifax area around midnight on Saturday, volunteers find what they’re looking for: two tents.
The tents are cut, collapsed and empty. But for someone, it had been home.
A layer of snow covers a shopping cart, shoes and a few empty soda bottles. Paul Service and Crystal Yeo find that the site seems abandoned.
âWe can report that they moved from here. So where we don’t know but we know they’re not in that location, âService said.
Armed with a list of locations, volunteers roam the city checking on Halifax’s homeless; parks, alleys, wherever people have lived.
Paul Service said Erica Fleck – the former deputy chief of emergency management at Halifax Fire, who is now charged with leading the homeless emergency response – wanted to involve search and rescue for about three years.
âWe are really at the level of the neighbors who help the neighbors. We’re at the level where you know what we can just get out and we can check these sites for the municipality, âService said.
“And hopefully we can connect someone with a warmer place for a storm or take them out of the environment for the storm.”
The team can offer people a lift to shelter, blanket, or whatever else they need.
Service believes this unique initiative could be the first of its kind for search and rescue teams in the country.
âThis is definitely a non-traditional role for search and rescue in Canada,â Service said. âWe’re not really aware of other teams across the country doing this. There may be and we just haven’t heard of it.
At night, the darkness makes the tents difficult to see. Snow also helps them blend in.
The service doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but it is learning it can help.
âWe are able to recognize what hypothermia looks like. We are trained for it. We take care of it during searches, âhe said.
“If somebody’s really cold like on that truck we have tonight, there are medical kits for hypothermia kits with blankets and warmers and that sort of thing.”
DELAYED MODULAR UNITS
As of January 4, the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia said 468 people were homeless in Halifax
A city effort to build modular units to house them has been delayed and is going over budget.
A report presented to HRM Council this week shows the municipality wants to spend an additional $ 1.2 million to install units for Dartmouth and Halifax.
The report also notes that units in Dartmouth, which are located on Church Street, could be ready in a matter of days, while units destined for Cogswell Street in Halifax will not be ready until mid-March.
Drew Moore, of the PADS Community Network, said there was a lack of political will from all levels of government, noting that other organizations such as Halifax Mutual Aid and the Archdiocese of Yarmouth-Halifax have managed to build crisis shelters and house dozens of people already.
âIt doesn’t matter what the city government says it’s doing or what it says it’s going to do, until people are actually housed, it doesn’t matter,â Moore said.
Councilor Tony Mancini disagrees with this assessment. He points out that HRM has already spent over $ 3 million on modular units and is now being asked to spend an additional $ 1.2 million. Dartmouth’s Gray Arena has also been converted into an emergency shelter.
“When I hear that we don’t have the political will? I just don’t understand. We are creating more resources. We are hiring more people. It was not our mandate, so we are trying to catch up. We are trying to work with other groups, âhe said.
âI look at the province in all of this. Where is the province? asks Mancini.