Moncton emergency shelter to charge homeless up to $300 per month
Front-line workers shocked by House of Nazareth decision to charge rent
A plan to charge people who are staying at the House of Nazareth emergency shelter in Moncton up to $300 a month is being met with anger.
Executive director Jean Dubé said charging people has always been part of the plan, and the decision was made in an effort to "keep the doors open and to provide the services these people need."
Dubé sais people who aren't receiving social assistance, which is $537 monthly for a single person, won't have to pay.
"We want to be able to provide the appropriate services which is, you know, housing, food, laundry, clothing, showers and everything else, there's a cost to that," he said.
"We wanted to be fair with everybody, but we want to be able to survive as well as an organization."
'Hit with a bombshell'
Steven Roberts, who lives at the House of Nazareth shelter along with his girlfriend, was shocked to find out Thursday he would have to pay $300 when his social assistance cheque arrived on Friday.
"You should have at least gave us a heads up to do that, instead of hitting us with a bombshell," he said.
We have people who are struggling with mental health, addiction, homelessness, trauma and they are accessing the shelter because they need it.- Trevor Goodwin, YMCA ReConnect
Roberts agreed that his basic needs are met at House of Nazareth, but he expects more for $300 a month.
"If we're going to pay rent, we should be able to have a little more authority, we should be able to go to our beds when we want to, we should be able to do what we want upstairs, but we can't do that."
He said the rules at the shelter are strict and require people to get up at 7 a.m. and no one is allowed to return to their dorm rooms until 8 p.m.
"That's just not right in my books," said Roberts.
Roberts, his girlfriend and his cousin are hoping to pool their money to see if they can find a place to rent on their own.
Not an easy task, according to Trevor Goodwin of the Moncton YMCA's ReConnect program.
"A single bedroom apartment in the worst end of town is $850 a month right now, plus an $850 a month damage deposit," he said. "The reason we have homeless shelters in the city is because we do not have affordable housing."
Goodwin said when he heard about the plan to charge people $300 per month to stay at the shelter, he "thought it was a joke."
"I don't feel like it's conducive to helping people in precarious situations. We have people who are struggling with mental health, addiction, homelessness, trauma and they are accessing the shelter because they need it."
Goodwin said he believes the new policy will hinder the ability of people to move on with their lives.
"Now it's less money that they have to put aside to save for damage deposits, for moving expenses, for purchasing medical items or purchasing identifications or whatever it is that they need to become housing-ready and to leave the shelter system."
Goodwin added charging for an emergency shelter will send some out on to the streets and back into tents, a problem the city has experienced before.
Charles Burrell, founder of the Humanity Project in Moncton, operated an emergency shelter during the 2018-19 winter.
In a Facebook post on Friday, he questioned where the money House of Nazareth collects will go.
"We had MANY people last winter stay at our shelter who got assistance and guess what — with a little bit of help they were able to find a place to live because that's the way it works and NO ONE wants to live at a shelter. NO ONE!!"
Money needed for increased staff
Dubé said after recent fires at the old House of Nazareth shelter on Clark Street and cost overruns for the new Albert Street shelter, more money is needed to keep the doors open.
"There's a choice to make. Close the doors and everybody in the street or keep this place running. Simple as that …there's a cost to running these places and there's a cost to keeping these places safe as well."
He said security has been an issue with a loaded handgun and "shanks" found in the shelter recently. There have also been complaints from neighbours about people using drugs outside.
He said if those criticizing think they can do a better job, they can come and run the shelter.
Cal Maskery, executive director of Harvest House Atlantic, said in the past his shelter also charged clients receiving social assistance a fee to stay, although that stopped five years ago.
Maskery said he understands why Dubé believes the $300 fee is necessary, and he said it's time for those who run emergency shelters to sit down with representatives from the City of Moncton and the Department of Social Development.
Maskery agreed there isn't enough funding from government to staff shelters adequately.
In a statement, the City of Moncton said it only learned about the fee late Thursday afternoon.
"We had high hopes that the new facility would meet the needs of the community and are concerned with the sudden change," the statement said. "We are currently focusing our efforts on increasing the number of affordable housing opportunities in our community."
The House of Nazareth shelter has received funding from all levels of government.
Social Development supports new fee
In a statement, a Social Development spokesperson said everyone who receives social assistance is expected to use their monthly cheque to cover basic needs.
"Shelters have, for many years, asked clients to contribute to operating costs by paying a very modest daily rate. In this particular case, the daily rate of $10 includes accommodations as well as two meals daily," according to the e-mail from Jean Bertin.
The statement goes on to say that paying rent will help in the development of life skills, which will prepare people to live independently when permanent accommodations can be found.