Halifax issued a notice Tuesday telling people living in tents and other small wooden structures in a west-end park to leave.
The Halifax Regional Municipality announced Meagher Park will be immediately closed for reconstruction and restoration work. People living there have until July 17 to leave.
There are several tents and a few buildings set up in the park which has been one of the focal points in the city's struggle to address homelessness over the past year.
Municipal staff gave out the notices at the park Tuesday noting the decline in "health and safety conditions" in recent months has prompted the move.
Officials say there are alternatives to sleeping in Meagher Park since the municipality recently designated four outdoor sheltering locations in the region which are equipped with portable toilets and garbage cans. Potable water, storage boxes and needle boxes will continue to be added to the sites.
The alternate sites are located at a green space on Barrington Street, between Cornwallis and North streets, and Lower Flinn Park in Halifax; also two green spaces in Dartmouth on Geary Street and Green Road Park.
Failure to remove the tents and buildings from Meagher Park while it's being restored to its original condition could result in arrest or a fine of up to $10,000, officials say.
Many of the residents living in the park have accepted an offer of housing from service providers working on behalf of the provincial government, officials say. They did not specify how many people are currently living in the park or how many have accepted help from the province.
"The municipality's priority has been, and continues to be, treating those experiencing homelessness with dignity and continuing to find ways to provide support ... within our organization's capacity and scope," says Tuesday's announcement.
Victoria Levack volunteers with P.A.D.S., a community group that has been helping the people in the park. She said no one should have to leave.
"Shelter is a human right," she said. "People should not be forced to leave if they don't want to."
Mayor Mike Savage pointed to the modular units built recently, as well as the designated parks, as examples of better housing options. Many people who used to live in the park now have better housing, he said.
"These new locations that we're setting up for tenting will have toilets, we will provide water, there will be garbage pickup, there will be places to store their belongings. They will have more there than they have at Meagher Park," Savage said. "They deserve that, and that's what we will provide."
The encampment at Meagher Park has drawn dozens of complaints about garbage, drug use, noise, violent altercations, and harrassment of locals.
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