Former Waterloo Street Baptist Church

The former Waterloo Street Baptist Church will be home to Saint John's newest homeless shelter. (Google Street View)

A new 20-bed homeless shelter will be opening in Saint John on May 1, taking the place of the Salvation Army’s shelter that is closing this month because of a funding shortfall.

The new shelter will be operated by Outflow, a local organization, and it will be located at the former Waterloo Street Baptist Church on Waterloo Street.

"There's a lot of work to do and we're prepared to do it," said Jayme Hall, executive director of Outflow.

"The church was deemed to be in a great location and it's a good size. It's able to do what we need to do to put in a proper shower facility and a good kitchen and laundry and all these things that need to take place."

The new facility was needed after the Salvation Army announced in February that it was closing its own homeless shelter on April 30. The Centre of Hope, which was the oldest and largest homeless shelter for men in Saint John, had 27 beds for emergency lodging and 40 beds for special-care clients.

Unlike the Salvation Army shelter, the new centre will be open to people who have been drinking or taking drugs.

"They may have had too much to drink or there's substance abuse of some sort," said Hall.

"We certainly don't think that everybody that is going to come to the shelter either is going to have drug problems or going to have issues like that. But we know we'll face that."

Outflow will have ties to outreach workers and non-profit housing organizations to direct clients to permanent shelter as quickly as possible, he says.

"This new facility will fulfil a need for a safe place for homeless men in Saint John," said Social Development Minister Madeleine Dubé in a statement. 

The new shelter will open its doors on May 1, but it will start from a temporary location at the former Somerset Community Centre on Somerset Street. Renovations at the new facility are expected to last for an additional eight weeks.

According to the department, a series of meetings were held with different community organizations to find a new homeless shelter in the city.

Colin McDonald, the board chair of Outflow, said the shelter will provide a place for homeless men and help them find a way off the streets.

"This partnership with the province is about ending homelessness for each individual that walks in the doors of our centre," McDonald said in a statement.

"We will provide them with the opportunities and support needed to end the cycle of homelessness and return dignity to their lives."

The new facility will not have special-care spaces similar to the Salvation Army centre.

The Department of Social Development had to find spaces for the 35 residents of the special-care home that was part of the former centre.

Meanwhile, Capt. Eric Bungay of the Salvation Army says operations at his shelter are winding down smoothly.

"It's been a very positive transition phase. And we've actually got four in our emergency housing right now and four of them are actually going to be moving into independent apartments roughly around April 25th."

He says the province has been instrumental in the transition.

Provincial funding that has been going to the Salvation Army shelter will now be directed to Outflow. A provincial spokesperson says it will amount to about $100,000 a year.