Legal opinion puts brakes on halfway house application
The Town of Yarmouth says an application seeking to turn a former seniors' boarding home into a halfway house for men making the transition from the justice system to the community won't be going ahead at this time following a legal opinion the town sought.
An application had been submitted by the John Howard Society of Nova Scotia to turn 8 James St. – formerly Sunset Terrace – into transitional housing to help those being released from jail or prison to have greater success when it comes to reintegrating into the community.
The matter had not yet come before town council for discussion. It was at the Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) stage.
There was mixed opinion on the application expressed on social media. Many people expressing concerns about the application were not in favour of it, and/or not in favour of the location. Others saw the need for such supports, although some of those people still questioned the location.
Others said they'd prefer other type of housing for 8 James St.
A July 4 public participation meeting had been scheduled but was canceled when the town said it was seeking a legal opinion pertaining to the application.
Last week Yarmouth
Mayor Pam Mood shared an update.
“Our CAO notified me that on the basis of the legal opinion received, neither the application for a development agreement for 8 James St., nor any other applications for development under the current definition of ‘Transitional and Supportive Housing,' can proceed at this time. Thank you to everyone for the calls, emails, and written letters expressing your views on the matter."
As part of the application, PAC documentation on the town's website noted: “The Town of Yarmouth recently adopted amendments to their Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) and Land Use By-law (LUB) to permit transitional and supportive housing in all areas designated as Residential by Development Agreement.”
It referenced the definition of this transitional and supportive housing as being “subsidized temporary or long-term housing with onsite services, communal and/ or self-contained units.”
The John Howard Society of Nova Scotia has existed since the 1950s. The James Street building it was seeking to purchase could house up to 20 residents and would provide 24/7 onsite support services. The applicantion indicated there would be a minimum of two support staff on the site at all times.
The building contains individual rooms – not apartments – with private bathrooms and contains shared common living, kitchen and dining areas. The society said it was not looking to make changes to the building.
“Poverty and homelessness are significant issues in Nova Scotia, generally, and rural Nova Scotia, specifically, including Yarmouth and surrounding areas,” it said. “Homelessness is a major contributing factor to criminalization and incarceration.”
Supports the society wanted to offer included life skills, anger management, employment skills development, employment programs, addiction information and support programs, one-onone and group sessions, and family engagement and support.
“The cycle of crime, like cycles of poverty, addictions, and discrimination, will not change until the cycle is broken,” it said. “Breaking away from the past requires support and guidance to develop new opportunities for the future. Without such support, participants are likely to return to their former selves, and continue to be a risk to the community.”
The property opened as a boarding home in 1890 as a place for women of diminished financial means to live. In more recent decades it was a residence for seniors. Sunset Terrace permanently closed in October 2020.