Fredericton gets advice on ending chronic homelessness

The City of Fredericton will consider 18 recommendations put forward by the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness to help increase affordable housing.

City council looks at ways to increase affordable housing in Fredericton

A mayor's task force has laid out a route to reducing homelessness in Fredericton.

The City of Fredericton will consider 18 recommendations put forward by the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness, to help increase affordable housing and end chronic homelessness in Fredericton.

Those recommendations include leasing city-owned properties for "housing first" developments, relaxing parking requirements for some housing developments, and allowing churches to more easily build affordable housing on their own land.

The recommendations in the report, Paving the Road Home, are what the task force considers ways to meet goals in another report, The Road Home, a plan put forward by the Community Action Group on Homelessness in 2015.

"They're things that will expedite the plan that we've set and they're things that will get there quicker," said Jeff Richardson, executive director of the United Way for Central New Brunswick, one of several community groups that came together to bring the recommendations to council as part of the task force.

"They'll help facilitate the work for those that want to build new houses, that want to offer the programs and the supports and the services that want to provide that holistic housing first approach." 

Where to go from here

Mayor Mike O'Brien said the plan will give groups a framework for where they can help.

"Where can a certain church or entity plug in? What do they want to do? Do they want to do outreach? Do they want to do food? Do they want to build something? Do they want to donate clothes?

"We'll find a way for them to do it in a focused way that makes them go towards the greatest need."

He said data shows that in Fredericton, between 700 and 800 people will touch homelessness at some point during an average year. Between 70 and 80 of them would be considered chronically homeless and trapped in a cycle, he said.

Goal to create new units

"It's like if somebody's hungry, you give them a sandwich," O'Brien said. "They're not hungry for an hour or two but then they're hungry again. You have to break that cycle."  

Down the road, he said, he hopes the task force will create 40 new units in the city.

He said it's been proven that if you put homeless people in a safe place, where they receive support, 80 to 85 per cent of will succeed and contribute to the community.

O'Brien said he doesn't know when council will adopt the plan, but he hopes staff can study five of the recommendations in time for the budget process in the fall.