On a Friday afternoon, Wade Tanner is sitting in his downtown Halifax, N.S. tent while sorting through his various pill bottles as he readies to take his daily medication.
He’s dealing with ongoing, serious health problems, while also facing daily struggles of living on the street.
“Water shortage for one, the rats, the drugs, that’s about it around here,” he describes an average night. “It’s drug haven at night, you get all the druggies from all over the city here in the tent city. Running up and down here all night long, you can hardly get any sleep here.”
Tanner was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday, where he was getting treatment for complications of cirrhosis of the liver from hepatitis c and congestive heart failure after a heart attack a year ago.
He’s been trying to get into The Bridge, a shelter with a nursing floor in Dartmouth, to no avail.
“Nobody is willing to help me,” said Tanner. “I’ve been going everywhere, going to get some help. They just pass the buck, that’s the way I feel, everybody is passing the buck. Go to this agency, go to that agency and nobody is doing anything.”
A friend of Tanner’s, Richard Young, has been living in a tent for just over a month alongside Tanner and fears one day finding that he doesn’t wake from his tent.
“He’s sick,” said Young. “He needs care and he’s in a tent. And he’s forgotten.”
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Young has only recently become unhoused, but describes the experience as demoralizing.
“It kills your soul, I’m telling ya,” said Young. “And the longer you stay here, the worse it is, the worse you feel. You know what I mean? Some days it’s even hard to get out of bed.”
Tanner is looking for a place to spend his last years.
“I’m dying,” Tanner explains. “So, I mean, I want a place that I can go and get peace and not cause any problems and not have anybody in my face all the time. You know, I just want somewhere to go.”
As of August 29, according to the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia’s By Name List, there are 1,012 people experiencing homelessness in HRM, an almost 60 per cent increase since August of last year and an approximately 500 per cent increase since 2018.
While those numbers don’t include people who may be sheltering in rural HRM, sleeping in their car or staying at a friend or family member’s house.
“We’re forgotten, you know, everybody forgets about us,” said Tanner. “It’s not right.”
City staff will present a report to council outlining options for additional designated tent locations and alternative approaches to combatting homelessness at next week’s meeting.
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