New Brunswick

Fredericton homeless advocates see spike in people living on the streets

The number of people living on the streets in Fredericton has jumped 50 per cent from last year, according to homeless advocates in New Brunswick's capital. 

Volunteers have been trying to find shelter for city's homeless before winter

Warren Maddox, executive director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters, hopes opening more beds at the local men's shelter will help meet increased demand. (Gary Moore/CBC)

The number of people living on the streets in Fredericton has jumped 50 per cent from last year, according to homeless advocates in New Brunswick's capital. 

Warren Maddox, executive director for Fredericton Homeless Shelters, says about 100 people are homeless in the area and it's hard to pinpoint why that number continues to rise. 

"You're looking at more mental health issues that are sort of manifesting themselves now, than perhaps in the past," Maddox said.

"You've got some drugs that are out there that are pretty nasty. So it's really a combination of a bunch of things."

Winter is coming

Maddox is looking at ways to meet the demand for shelter this coming winter. This includes working with government to see if opening more space at the shelter is an option. 

Number of Fredericton homeless up 50 per cent

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The city’s homeless population has increased, and shelters in the city are working with the provincial government to add up to 20 new beds.

That means the shelter would go from 40 beds to 56. 

But Maddox said that still might not be enough to support everyone looking for a warm place to stay this winter.

And sometimes, some people can be difficult to deal with in shelters. 

"The advent of crystal meth is making things challenging because it is so disruptive both physically and mentally. It becomes harder to sort of work with," he said.

"And then some of the mental health issues that are there are diagnosed, but untreated also making individuals that are pretty unpredictable."

Getting people out of the cold 

Last year, an emergency out-of-the-cold shelter was quickly put together to accommodate people living outside in tents and sleeping on the streets. 

Dr. Sara Davidson, a physician at Fredericton Downtown Community Health Centre, got involved with the emergency shelter last winter after seeing first hand some of the people living outside. 

Staff at the shelter is looking to add 15 more beds before winter. (Gary Moore/CBC)

"Even into the late fall, I was starting to treat people for pneumonia, but then they're living in a tent — admitting people to a hospital for that reason."

Davidson says there's going to be a need for another out-of-the-cold shelter again this winter because of the 100 people known to be "living rough" in the city.

Davidson and a team of outreach workers and special housing organizations, will also be working over the next few weeks, to figure out exactly who is living on the streets.

"We're going to be doing a bit of a census over the next few weeks just to try to exactly name people."

Woman with long salt-and-pepper hair
With at least 100 people living 'rough' in Fredericton, Dr. Sara Davidson says another out-of-the-cold shelter will be needed this winter. (Gary Moore/CBC)

But planning has already been underway since the local emergency shelter closed this past spring. 

"A lot of that planning looked like — how do we create more sustainable, permanent housing for people?" Davidson said. 

"But at the same time always being very aware that we're probably going to be in a similar boat you know until everyone is housed."

Province looks for long-term solutions

In an emailed statement from New Brunswick's Department of Social Development, the province says there's been no decision made yet to help solve Fredericton's homeless issue this winter. 

According to the statement, the province is working on short-term and long-term solutions for the region. 

"Over the past few months, we have focused a great deal of effort on delivering wrap around supports and housing subsidies that can provide individuals with permanent housing options, rather than focusing on additional shelter beds."


Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.