After an October 2023 promise to have Pallet shelters in place by the colder months, Nova Scotia opposition parties are calling for clarity on when the shelters will be delivered.
The province said $7.5 million was spent to purchase 200 units from the rapid-response shelter provider Pallet, as well as new bed frames, mattresses and additional support.
Since then, Deputy Minister Melissa MacKinnon said there have been unexpected delays in obtaining the units.
In a statement on Wednesday, provincial spokespeople told Global News the province is working to find “suitable land and services to support the Pallet villages” and that it will be weeks before the province can identify the first site.
The U.S.-based company Pallet requires lands to hold a set of standards before delivery, including access to services, water, sewer, electricity and more. The provider does not ship units until suitable land has been chosen.
“We’re in the peak of the winter,” NDP Leader Claudia Chender said in an interview.
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“Time is of the essence. We have people in Nova Scotia living outside in the winter, and that’s something that, at this scale, we have not seen in our lifetime. That’s not who we are as Nova Scotians; we take care of each other.”
The province said that once sites are identified, the Department of Community Services will expedite the installation of power, sewer and water, saying it’s working with NS Power, the Department of Public Works, the Office of the Fire Marshal, NS Power and Halifax Water.
“The department feels the sense of urgency with getting the Pallet shelters in place, and we must balance that with getting this complex work done right,” Department of Community Services spokesperson Christina Deveau said in a statement to Global News.
“There is extensive work required to ensure the villages are respectful, dignified and safe for the residents that will live there.”
One hundred of the shelters will be in Halifax, and service providers and municipalities will be consulted on where the shelters will be placed.
The Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia estimates there are 1,094 actively homeless residents in Nova Scotia, with 784 of those actively chronically homeless.
“We’ve already had people die in the street, one of them just trying to heat their tent with propane,” Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Zach Churchill said.
“We’re in the cold months of winter, and the government needs to move as quickly as possible to help as many people as possible as we deal with the rest of winter.”
The province said in October that the shelters are for the “colder months,” saying it’s hoping to use the structures as a winter solution.
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