New Brunswick

Mayor urges province to establish new homeless shelter in Fredericton

The mayor of Fredericton is calling on the province for a new temporary homeless shelter that would open next month.

Mike O'Brien is asking to use provincial land for a new temporary shelter on May 1

Before the temporary out-of-the-cold shelter opened in Fredericton, eight tents were lined up in the city's downtown to give people shelter from snow and cold temperatures. (Gary Moore/CBC)

The mayor of Fredericton is calling on the province for a new temporary homeless shelter that would open next month.

With Fredericton's temporary out-of-the-cold shelter closing at the end of April, Mayor Mike O'Brien wrote a letter to Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard, asking the province to take action on the issue of homelessness.

The letter was approved by city council at Monday night's city council meeting. 

O'Brien says the homelessness problem isn't going away once the shelter, located at 791 Brunswick Street, closes at the end of the month.

And if plans aren't put in place soon, dozens of people will be back on the streets. 

A temporary out-of-the-cold shelter has been operating in the old bishop's house on Brunswick Street since December. The shelter will be closing its doors on April 30. (Philip Drost/CBC)

"There is no doubt many of the citizens currently residing at 791 Brunswick will turn to sleeping outside in tents throughout the city," O'Brien says in the letter.

"This is both an unsafe and unacceptable outcome."

Coming up with a new plan

In February, the city sent another letter asking the province to present a "coherent" homeless plan that would go beyond the temporary out-of-the-cold shelter's lifeline.

At the time, the out-of-the-cold shelter was set to close at the end of March. The deadline was later extended to April 30.

Now, O'Brien is suggesting the province use some of its downtown land to set up modular buildings and trailers where people could live. 

He's asking the units be situated in a parking lot next to the Victoria Health Centre, calling it a temporary solution until the homeless crisis is fixed long term. 

If the province agrees, O'Brien says this can be put in place by May 1, or shortly thereafter.

"If the Department of Social Development is willing to consider this, we'll get together right away and see if there's a way we can brainstorm this and make it happen right away."

City to chip in

Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien is asking the province to use some of its downtown land to set up modular buildings and trailers as a temporary shelter. (Gary Moore/CBC)

While the province would be expected to use its own land, O'Brien says the city could provide services to the units, such as water, sewage and power, which he says could hook up to the nearby small craft aquatic centre.

O'Brien says the downtown location makes sense because it would be near the Fredericton Community Kitchen, the men's shelter and other services that clients might need at the health centre.

"This would be another step outside of both our comfort zones of what we've done in the past, and see if it's a potential option."

O'Brien says he's hopeful the province will be receptive to the letter. But he admits the idea of using provincial land for something like this might not have been on government's radar until now.


Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.


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