Tent Living in Lower Sackville IG News

IG news Update,

Lower Sackville, NS –

Fifty-six-year-old Bill Pierce has been living in a small park near Sackville Drive for 65 days.

“They call us homeless, they call us hobos,” Pierce says.

But what he really is, a man down on his luck, facing multiple health challenges, still has a hospital ID band around his wrist.

Tent residents in the park do not have on-site toilet facilities, despite repeated requests from both the area’s municipal councilor and Liberal MP.

Several new apartment buildings are just a short walk away, as well as one under construction. But when asked what it’s like to find an affordable place to live in the area, his answer is blunt.

“Impossible,” Pierce says. “They’re building 17 buildings, and the lowest (rent) is $1700… like, I got all kinds of lines in the water, and I just can’t catch any fish.”

“I’m originally from (nearby) Beaver Bank, having lived there 54 years,” he says. “My place was sold, (they) put sixty in it, flipped it for $200,000.”

Not one to sit idle, she and the park’s other residents spend hours cleaning up piles of trash from the woods left behind by other people living in the past in exchange for gift cards and food.

Patricia Stephens-Brown is an outreach activist and the founder of her own advocacy organization called “Have a Heart and Find the Way.” She has been helping people who have been living in the park for the past several years, a number that has only increased recently.

“And it’s not something that pops up all of a sudden,” she says. “Many leads were telling us it was going to get worse.”

Stephens-Brown says the pandemic, inflation and the lack of social housing all created gaps that governments have not filled.

One example is the province’s Nova Scotia Targeted Housing Benefit, which she says fails to take into account current rent amounts when calculating subsidies for residents.

That means applicants are often expected to pay the difference, which, for some, she says, isn’t affordable.

Stephens-Brown wrote in a recent op-ed, “Housing first is the only strategy that gives an individual a stable foundation to build their life on.” “Removing this housing crisis will not solve it.”

Social worker Rachel Smith agrees. Through her work with the Sackville Area Warming Center, Smith says she is currently helping 45 people in the Lower Sackville area with housing needs.

“Recently, we are seeing a greater influx of people becoming homeless for the first time,” Smith says.

She says discrimination by landlords against low-income tenants, lack of renovation and affordable options are all playing a part in the housing crisis.

“Having a private landlord just isn’t useful,” she says. “Providing a greater crop of housing that is an affordable price is the same.”

In the park, there are signs to show kindness to strangers, leaving food or other supplies.

“It’s the kindness of others,” says Pierce, as a trio of friends left out fresh pizza and cookies. “It happens all the time, kind people happen.”

“We’re not asking for the world, we just need a little help,” he says, tears welling up in his eyes. “Come here, talk to us, you’ll be amazed.”

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