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Everyday life’s a challenge in a food desert

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Published Nov. 4, 2012. Read the original version in The Chronicle Herald.

Donnie Mullins (left) and Norman Greenberg (right) want to bring a grocery co-op to the Gottingen-area neighbourhood. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)

Groceries cost Donnie Mullins $20 more than most people. That’s the cost of a 2.6-kilometre round trip in a cab from the closest grocery store, Sobey’s on Windsor Street, to his building, Ahern Manor on Gottingen Street, where he’s lived for 15 years.

Mullins used to carry groceries on the back of his motorized wheelchair, but food would go missing on the way home.

“I live in a place that kids actually don’t get fed that well either,” he says. “So, it’s a competition, right?”

“Whatever they can get, they take. They’re hungry, too.”

He can’t take his groceries on the bus. Passengers are only allowed to bring what they can carry on their laps. And like many people in his neighbourhood, he doesn’t own a car. So Mullins dips into his food budget for cab money.

Ahern Manor on the left. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)

When he gets his groceries home, he can only carry so many bags at a time on his chair. So people steal the food he leaves downstairs.

Budgeting for transportation and having food stolen means Mullins does not eat as well as he’d like to. He wants a nutritious meal every day, but mostly he eats canned food heated up in the microwave.

“It’s not just me. There are many seniors and disabled people around us who have similar problems. They actually have credit at the corner stores because they can’t get to a grocery store.”

Things would be different if they didn’t live in a food desert.

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Written by hilarybeaumont

November 4, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Who owns downtown Halifax?

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Published on July 3, 2012. Read the interactive story on OpenFile.

Argyle Street, as seen from the future site of the Convention Centre. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)

In downtown Halifax, property owners jostle for space like fans at a rock concert. Elbows up, Joe Ramia and his brother George Ramia hold strategic space near the waterfront, along Barrington and at the old Chronicle Herald site. It’s no secret Starfish Properties’ Louis Reznick owns more Barrington Street storefronts than anyone else, but he also claims a slice of Historic Properties.

Screenshot of the interactive downtown Halifax map, by Hilary Beaumont and Bill McEwan.

Another strategy emerges along Argyle. Three companies have bought up adjacent buildings, and now lease to restaurants who cater to downtown diners and club-goers.

Gary Hurst and Steve McMullin of Five Fishermen Limited and Cornwallis Properties Limited own Cheers, Taboo, the Dome and the Five Fishermen. At the south end of Argyle, Luigi and Marilisa Benigno of Alessandra Investments Limited own almost an entire block of tiny lots. The cash cow includes restaurant space occupied by The Loose Cannon, Subway and Sicilian Pizza. Across the street, Costa Elles and Chris Tzaneteas own part of the city block that contains The Argyle, Burrito Jax and Venus Pizza.

Other downtown tycoons, like Ralph Medjuck of Cambridge Suites Limited, hold monopolies on hotels, or on the buildings in the banking district, which are mostly owned by Michael Veit and Edgar Reifer of TDB Halifax Holdings Limited.

The priciest properties in the downtown—the Aliant Building ($54 million), Scotia Square ($118 million) and 1801 Hollis Street ($37 million)—are owned by Fortis Properties Corporation, Crombie Developments Limited and Canadian Property Holdings Inc. respectively.

To read the multimedia story with interactive maps, click here. The second story in this series, “The six that own downtown Halifax,” profiles the downtown owners.

An anonymous and slightly greasy note slipped into my breakfast at the Good Food Emporium.

Written by hilarybeaumont

November 4, 2012 at 1:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Health Canada won’t let gay men give blood

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This story was originally published nationally by OpenFile on Feb. 15, 2012. A longer version was then published by Briarpatch Magazine on July 1, 2012.

The Canadian Blood Services won’t let Nick Shaw give blood. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)

The first and only time he gave blood, Nick Shaw felt like a hero.

The Canadian Blood Services advertised their clinic at his high school with posters, announcements over the PA-system, and in-class talks by teachers and nurses. Blood donation was touted as a moral imperative, and lots of high school seniors planned to do it.

The 17-year-old saw it as a chance to contribute to some greater good.

At the clinic, Nick completed a questionnaire and entered a private booth where a nurse asked him more questions about where he had travelled and whether he had tested positive for HIV or AIDS.

Then she asked him: “Have you had sex with a man, even one time since 1977?”

The blood rushed to his cheeks and his heart started to race and he said, “No,” quickly.

His high school near Hamilton, Ontario was brimming with homophobia. Nick had accepted his attraction to men, but he didn’t plan to act on his feelings, and he certainly wasn’t going to tell anyone he was gay. He knew if he had sex with a man, he would be banned from giving blood.

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Written by hilarybeaumont

July 1, 2012 at 11:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized