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HRM not dealing well with homelessness, says report

Over 1,700 people stayed in homeless shelters in HRM last year, according to the 2010 Halifax Report Card on Homelessness.

Over 1,700 people stayed in homeless shelters in HRM last year, according to the 2010 Halifax Report Card on Homelessness.

The report released yesterday by Community Action on Homelessness also states of those 1,718 people, the average length of a stay in shelters was 19 days. 158 were families — mothers and children, as HRM does not have a shelter for fathers and children.

It also had some disparaging remarks for HRM’s efforts to combat homelessness.

The report gave HRM a score of C- on housing issues, signifying no progress or some loss. It cites rising average costs for a bachelor apartment — up 6.5 per cent to $638.00 — as the principle factor behind the grade.

On income issues the report gave HRM a grade of C, or no progress, citing negligible increases in income assistance and minimum wage.

Increased rent without comparable increases in wages presents difficulties in finding and maintaining adequate housing, the report notes.

Community Action on Homelessness announced their findings at a press conference yesterday, with a roundtable discussion featuring leading members of HRM’s anti-poverty organizations.

According to spokesman John Hartling, the numbers show that there are not sufficient affordable housing options in the municipality.

One member of the roundtable, Jann Griffin, knows all too well the effect housing and support can have for the homeless. Griffin moved from Saint John, N.B., to Halifax in hopes of escaping problems with drugs, but quickly fell back into the cycle.

Griffin said she was admitted to detox 38 times, and was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. She finally turned to Adsum House, an organization which provides shelter and support for women and children, for help.

“Alone, I had no family, no friends,” she said. “Adsum House took me under their wing, assured me I wasn’t going to die.”

As of yesterday, Griffin was six years clean and sober, living in Adsum Court. She told the crowd she owes her life to the support she received.

“Although, after six years, it’s time for me to maybe move on now, to give someone else the chance that I had,” she said.