Former bishop's house becomes shelter with 'a lot of dignity'

Advocates for the rising number of homeless people in Fredericton will open a temporary shelter this week to help keep people warm during the winter.

Fredericton out-of-the-cold shelter opens Thursday on Brunswick Street

A Fredericton house once used by Anglican bishops is being converted to a temporary homeless shelter. (Philip Drost/CBC)

Advocates for the rising number of homeless people in Fredericton will open a temporary shelter this week to help keep people warm during the winter.

The new out-of-the-cold shelter will open Thursday at 791 Brunswick St. The building is a former bishop's house that the Anglican diocese of Fredericton provided to the Community Action Group on Homelessness.

About 35 people in the city are sleeping out in the cold each night, and the new shelter will be able to house up to 20 people, said Faith McFarland, the group's community development co-ordinator.

"It gives an option that's really low barrier, really welcoming, a really safe spot for people who just need to keep warm through the nights," she said. 

Fredericton will get a new temporary shelter for homeless people this Thursday. 0:39

The shelter will stay open until March. Unlike a regular homeless shelter, it will only be open at night and guests will be asked to leave in the morning.

A bishop hasn't lived in the house in a few years, and Bishop David Edwards felt homelessness was an important issue to be involved in. 

"There are folks in Fredericton who have nowhere to live, and we have a spot that we could at least offer," he said.

The temporary shelter on Brunswick Street will be able to house 20 people each night during the winter. (Philip Drost/CBC)

McFarland said most temporary shelters are provided in church basements or auditoriums, so the former bishop's house is "above and beyond."

"Instead of having congregate living, where you could see 20 people in one room, you may see four people," said McFarland. "It has a home feeling to it as well. There's a lot dignity to that.

"It really shows that people are members of our community. They're neighbours, they're welcome and they're cared for."

Help needed

Staffing will be organized by the Fredericton Downtown Community Health Centre, but volunteers are needed to help set up each night, do laundry and make snacks. 

McFarland is also looking for item donations to help fill the house. People can find the list of needed goods at the Road Home Fredericton website.

About 35 people are sleeping in the cold each night in Fredericton, says Faith McFarland of the Community Action Group on Homelessness. (Joe McDonald/CBC)

"We only have really two days to get those materials together, so we ask everyone to be a part of that," she said.

McFarland is also waiting for provincial funding to help keep the shelter running. For now, the shelter is relying on donations.

About the Author

Philip Drost

Philip Drost is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick.