New Brunswick

Moncton homeless shelter use up 10%, report finds

A new report that found homeless shelter use in the greater Moncton area jumped 10 per cent last year points to the need for more affordable housing units, according to an activist.

Increase points to need for more affordable housing units, says activist

The number of people using homeless shelters in the greater Moncton area jumped by 10 per cent in 2015 over the previous year, according to a report released on Monday by the Greater Moncton Homelessness Steering Committee.

The report found 862 people stayed at a Moncton-area shelter in 2015, up from 780 the year before. (CBC)
While last year's extreme winter may have contributed to the increase, committee member Debby Warren contends the bigger issue is the lack of affordable housing.

No new provincially subsidized units were added to the Moncton area last year, despite a lengthy wait list, said Warren, who sits on the committee's management group and is also the executive director of AIDS Moncton.

"Surely it's time, as broke as this province is, that they look to address the housing first," she said.

A total of 862 people stayed at a Moncton area shelter in 2015, compared to 780 a year earlier, the ninth annual report card, Experiencing Homelessness, found.

An additional 107 women fled domestic violence, according to the report, launched at a community breakfast for the homeless Monday morning at Saint George's Anglican Church.

Meanwhile, 1,600 people were on the wait list for subsidized housing last year, said Warren. And that doesn't include the so-called hidden homeless — those who who go from friend to family, or couch to couch, while they look for an affordable place to live, she said.

Debby Warren, a member of the Greater Moncton Homelessness Steering Committee, is calling on the provincial government to increase the number of affordable housing units. (CBC)
Warren noted there was also an increase in the number of people on social assistance, yet no new housing subsidies.

"Rent takes up more than their cheque because their cheque is $537 [a month]. How can we expect people to live off of that?" she asked.

Warren says front-line support services are working together to address homelessness and have made strides in finding ways to provide food, clothing and mental health services.

But they can only do so much, she said.

"We can have all the great services in the world, but if we can't house them, it really impedes the work we try to do to support them."

You can't apply for a job if you can't have a shower, you don't have a phone number, you don't have an address and you know, the story goes on and on.- Debby Warren, homelessness committee

Warren contends research shows a housing-first approach works.

Even 10 or 12 new homes a year as part of a five-year plan would be a good start, she said.

"But with no new subsidies, nothing changes much. We're still putting [on] the Band-Aids."

She said helping people get a home, and an address, is a start to moving beyond poverty and getting many on their feet.

"You can't apply for a job if you can't have a shower, you don't have a phone number, you don't have an address and you know, the story goes on and on," she said.

"We'll continue to be poor in this province if we don't address the poverty issue."

The report card cites the October election of a federal Liberal government, which brought in a solid platform to begin reinvesting in social housing, as good news for the greater Moncton area.

But it also notes the province is now in a holding pattern while it waits for Ottawa to distribute the promised money for social housing.

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