New Brunswick

More women than men are homeless as Moncton waits for shelter to open

As winter approaches, more women than men are experiencing homelessness in Moncton, statistics from the Greater Moncton homelessness steering committee suggest.

Safety a top concern for women in homeless shelters

The Nazareth House out-of-the-cold shelter hopes to open within a few weeks. (Shane Magee/CBC)

As winter approaches, more women than men are experiencing homelessness in Moncton, statistics from the Greater Moncton homelessness steering committee suggest.

Of the 131 people known to be homeless in the Moncton area, 73 are women, 56 men and two are transgender persons.

Lisa Ryan, community development co-ordinator for the committee, said the rising number of women sleeping outdoors is up from last year. She suggested a link to domestic violence.

"What's happening with women is directly correlating with statistics that happen in New Brunswick. So the statistics around domestic violence and what we're seeing with the rise of violence against women, this is correlating. It's just another form of violence against women."

Ryan said the numbers on the gender divide among the homeless are more accurate than in the past because agencies that specifically deal with women are at the table —  the YWCA and Crossroads for Women.

Ryan said the needs of men and women in shelters are not too different, but safety is more of a concern for women.

Lisa Ryan, community development co-ordinator for the Greater Moncton homelessness steering committee, says the shelter is a necessity, but it is only a short-term solution. (Shane Magee/CBC)

"We hear a lot about having their own separate space, where they're not around males," Ryan said.

Having strong women in leadership roles also makes more women feel safer in a shelter, Ryan said. 

"When we did the out-of-the-cold shelter we didn't have the luxury of being able to separate people, even though they wanted that," she said.

"But what we did see was when we had strong females who were compassionate and led with empathy we created a safe environment for both."

Shelter to open in a few weeks

Over a month has passed since the City of Moncton shut down the homeless encampment on Albert Street, where about 40 people were living.

The community is still awaiting the opening of a new shelter being built by Nazareth House. Trevor Goodwin, director of the YMCA's Reconnect street intervention program, said he has been told the shelter could open in a few weeks.

In the meantime, Goodwin said, people have dispersed throughout the city, setting up camps or couch surfing. He said the city tends to dismantle encampments quickly, but the one at High Street has taken longer to remove because it's on provincial property.

Trevor Goodwin from the YMCA ReConnect program says people have dispersed throughout the city setting up temporary encampments while they wait for the new shelter to open. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

"Typically, the city would just go in and disperse people, but because it's a rental property, it has to go through the province, and they're in the process of doing that," Goodwin said.

Ryan said the long-term fight is for affordable housing that meet the needs of all people who are homeless and provides  any necessary support programs.

But the shelter is still necessary to deal with the current emergency, he said. 

"We also need to as a community to recognize that this will not end the problem, and holding so much hope on those doors opening — yes, we need them to open because we don't want a winter where people are sleeping outside, but we also have to start thinking long term about what happens in April."

With files from Info AM Moncton