Municipal workers in Halifax have removed a structure from a local park being used by unhoused people, renewing concerns about homeless encampments and the lack of adequate shelter in the city.

Laura Patterson, a park volunteer and social justice advocate, said the structure was being built at the park to safely store food for unhoused people who have nowhere else to go.

"Once the weather started doing the freeze and thaw, the food would end up covered in mud and much of it was ruined," she said in an interview on Sunday.

The shed-like structure was slated to serve as a space for storing food and preparing simple meals, Patterson said.

Hundreds of Londoners could be turned out onto the street or sent back to emergency shelters as federal and provincial COVID-19 funding that shored up dozens of homeless programs expires soon.

Without an extension from Ottawa and Queen’s Park, winter shelters and drop-in spaces will close, the funding for hotel rooms and housing units will be eliminated, and 12 programs shuttered or scaled back.

The looming chaos has social agencies on edge and city hall staff urging council to lobby the provincial and federal governments for continued funding after the March 31 expiry.

The pandemic has shone a light on the challenges faced by people who live in poverty or homelessness and the upcoming provincial election is an opportunity to make real change.

That was the overriding message from the first of the Informed Democracy series the Guelph Wellington Coalition for Social Justice held virtually on Feb. 16.

“The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the gaping holes in the social service network,” said Dominica McPherson, director of the Guelph and Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination, who was one of four panellists at the event.

“These issues were not created by the pandemic. The pandemic has only made things worse.”

Supreme Court Justice Simon Coval has dismissed the City of Prince George’s application to close down the homeless encampment at Lower Patricia.

In a 27-page ruling, Coval denied the city’s interlocutory injunction to remove the last residents of the tent encampment. The city had removed some resident in November and Coval said that removal was in contravention of an earlier court ruling that allowed the Lower Patricia encampment to remain open until suitable housing and daytime facilities were available.

The next Ontario government might want to look more seriously at a hybrid model of universal basic income and social supports. A tsunami of inflation, higher interest rates, ballooning housing costs, and a pandemic hangover will require immediate and systemic adaptation.

Positive news for North Bay and area, including record-breaking development and a reversal of population decline, provides a measure of regional hope. But it is unwise to think that washes away growing deficits in affordable housing, food security, and support for mental health and addictions. The millions being spent on transition programs locally is a mere bandage on a festering wound created by past cuts and decisions.

When it comes to housing the homeless, a tiny home is better than nothing — right?

Not quite, says Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

After a Montrealer died of exposure — the second in under a month — comedian Mike Ward offered to donate 25 "tiny homes" to Montreal as temporary winter shelters for homeless people in the city.

Plante declined. Housing is a complex issue, said Montreal's mayor, and the most vulnerable need an entire ecosystem — including support workers and adapted services — not just a tiny structure in which to shelter from the cold.

DSSMSSAB chief executive officer Mike Nadeau confirmed that "most, if not all" of the people connected to the trashed rooms are now "located within our shelter system."

"In the absence of adequate health supports, people are falling through the safety net and onto us. And we are the bottom," Nadeau said.

"It is not a housing issue. It's a public health issue. Housing is a piece of that wheel. It needs to be there."

"But without a strong health lens, people will not get better and we can't just keep supporting the same kind of behaviour."