New Brunswick

Fredericton church opens doors to homeless after overflow at new emergency shelter

It's a chain reaction that keeps growing with only one goal in mind — to help Fredericton's homeless stay out of the cold.

St. Paul's hopes other churches will follow its lead

A Fredericton church has opened its doors to help bring more people off the streets on cold winter nights. (Redmond Shannon/CBC)

It's a chain reaction that keeps growing with only one goal in mind — to help Fredericton's homeless stay out of the cold.

St. Paul's United Church has recently opened its sanctuary to offer a warm place for the night, to help alleviate some of the overflow at the former bishop's house on Brunswick Street. The building, which was donated by the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton, serves as a new out-of the-cold shelter for homeless people living in the city.

"I preach about it every Sunday that I'm up there, that we're supposed to reach out and give of ourselves," said Rev. Richard Bowley, who pastors at the downtown church.

"I'm glad to be able to do this and I'm glad there are people in the congregation stepping up and doing the same thing."

Bowley said the church had talked about the idea at a board meeting at the end of November, before even knowing the emergency shelter was going to open at the bishop's house.

After the board meeting, they passed the concept by the congregation and received "overwhelming support." 

There were almost 100 votes and only about four people voted against the idea.

"It's something we felt called to do as a church," he said.

Finding ways to help out

He said the church is always looking for different ways to serve the community.

"This is one that we can do if it means opening up our doors and giving up some space," he said.

He said the York Street church has been trying to work in collaboration with the city's new emergency shelter since it opened earlier this month. 

It's really just providing a warm space on these really cold nights.-Rev. Richard  Bowley , St. Paul's United Church

In Fredericton, Bowley said, there are more than 30 people living on the streets at night.

Fredericton's out-of-the-cold shelter can take about 20 people, so St. Paul's has been trying to take in an additional 10 people every night.

"If they reach capacity, they send people over to St. Paul's and they come in," he said.

Every night, the emergency shelter does its intake between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Meanwhile, St. Paul's allows people to come between 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., which is intended to help people who weren't able to find a spot at the out-of-the-cold shelter.

St. Paul's is hoping to keep their doors open to Fredericton's homeless until March 31, same as the temporary out-of-the-cold-shelter.

Only mats to sleep on

Right now, people who have been staying at the church sleep on mats laid on the floor. 

"It's really just providing a warm space on these really cold nights," he said. 

"It really is a place to sleep."

The church is hoping to find mattresses, cots and volunteers to help out until spring. Right now, the local church has volunteers until Friday and it's looking for more throughout the weekend.

The old bishop's house on Brunswick Street in Fredericton has been converted into a temporary homeless shelter until March 31. (Philip Drost/CBC)

"It's a pretty low barrier both for the people who are going to be staying here and for the volunteers," he said.  

Bowley said he's encouraging other churches across the city to take part in the initiative. He's also hoping people from other churches will help volunteer at St. Paul's.

"You open the doors and you make that space available," he said.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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