Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

As residents living in a Lower Sackville ballpark prepare for freezing winter conditions in the months ahead, several community members are volunteering both time and funds to lessen the burden.

Samantha Banks, vice president of the Gated Community, a group that aims to provide support for residents of the Cobequid Ballfield tent encampment in the Halifax-suburb of Lower Sackville, said they’ve been able to raise enough funds to buy a large military tent and 21 heated ice-fishing tents for the area’s unhoused.

She said there are also plans for a new wood stove to be installed.

“It’s going to be a mad dash to get that done before it’s too cold and we can’t do it,” she said, referring to the recently purchased ice fishing tents that are expected to arrive in a few days. “When it came to the military tent, they (the residents) saw that this was a need … something they could really benefit from.”

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Fortunately, she said the tent company chipped in and covered the shipping costs, which proved to be helpful considering the overall price tag of about $6,000.

“Military-style tents are meant for our military to be up north in cold climates, and we needed something to last through wind, rain, and snow,” she said, adding work still needs to be done surrounding the installation of flooring and the wood stove inside.

A recently purchased, $6,000 military tent is stationed at the Cobequid Ballfield in Lower Sackville.

A recently purchased, $6,000 military tent is stationed at the Cobequid Ballfield in Lower Sackville.

Stephen Rehbert, who currently resides in a tent at the ball field, said he’s been living in the area for 11 months and is very pleased with the upgraded resources coming into the area.

“I’m blessed that this tent’s coming in,” he said. “I can cook food on my wood stove and make eggs … being able to cook those and not let them go frozen and bad, it’s nice.”

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Rehbert said he looks forward to there being a “warm and safe spot.”

Banks said the new wood stove is expected to offer quality-of-life benefits beyond just the main goal of alleviating discomfort from decreasing temperatures.

“Wintertime can be hard for people’s mental health in general, if you’re staying in a tent? That’s even worse, so being able to socialize and come together, that’s invaluable,” she said. “Having the wood stove, it’s a consistent source of heat … they can even heat up a pot on top of it, so they can come in, get warm, or if anyone has an emergency where their tents come down or a newcomer comes, there’s a safe place to come and stay warm.”

As an example, Banks said about 10 tents were knocked over during heavy wind and rain conditions last week.

“We were scrambling, trying to figure out where we were going to put people that were freezing cold in the wind and rain,” she said. “We just can’t have that. We have to have something for them in place.”

Samantha Banks, vice-president of The Gated Community, a volunteer-run non-profit that provides assistance to residents of the Cobequid Ballfield.

Vanessa Wright

In addition to the recent upgrades being purchased through fundraising, Banks said two community members offered a trailer to the area for a six-month period, which will provide residents with an additional location with electricity.

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“Over half of the ball field doesn’t have access to electricity right now … so they’ll be able to stay warm,” Banks added.

Her non-profit group held an auction last week, which brought in about $5,000 and was used to purchase the ice-fishing tents.

Regarding communication with officials, she said her organization frequently coordinates with municipal officials to locate services for the encampment, but resources have proven to be limited.

“I think the province needs to step up and try to figure out a gameplan for what’s going to happen, at this point, we’re just counting on the fact that they (residents) will be here for most of the winter,” she said, adding that their recent approach of fundraising to purchase resources is simply because they can’t “wait any longer. Winter’s here, so if we continue to wait people are going to get hurt or are going to die.”

“It (used to be) very easy for people to pass by and turn a blind eye to what was happening because it wasn’t in their immediate sightline, but now with these encampments being set up … people are seeing them,” she said. “These are people, just like you and I. We wouldn’t let an animal live like this, so why would we let people live like this?”

Banks said she and the group of volunteers, which began offering support to those living rough in the Lower Sackville encampment following severe flash flooding in the summer, “aren’t going anywhere.”

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She said her non-profit will continue providing physical resources, along with “personal and professional development” for those in the community such as help with things like resume-building.

“It’s a lot easier to do that in a place that’s warm, like a large tent, versus the snow,” she said.

— with files from Ella Macdonald

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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