Charity hopes new Moncton homeless shelter can open within weeks
More than 100 people are living on the streets in the city
House of Nazareth says its new homeless shelter in downtown Moncton may open in coming weeks, but the precise date remains unclear.
Advocates say the shelter is urgently needed to house people living on the streets.
"Things are going very well," Jean Dubé, the charity's executive director, said in an interview. "I'm very pleased with what we've been able to do thus far with.
"With construction and with our discussions we've had with government and government agencies. Listen, I'm tickled pink, it's really really going well."
When the shelter was announced in May, Dubé said it would be partially open by August and fully open by November. The doors have yet to officially open.
It was revealed in late August that architectural plans had not been prepared, and applications for building permits hadn't been filed.
After a testy exchange with Moncton councillors in August led to questions about the planning that went into the shelter, Dubé stopped answering requests for interviews.
Permits were issued Oct. 11, the City of Moncton has said.
On Friday, the doors were open at the building while a local radio station held a fundraiser for the charity. The annual event helps cover the organization's operating costs.
Dubé struck an optimistic tone as construction work continued behind a plastic sheet separating a kitchen area from a drop-in seating space. A large TV above the seating area was tuned to a news station.
He was asked when he believes people will begin staying at the shelter.
"Well, within the next a few weeks we should be ready to accommodate some people here at 75 Albert," he said, referring to the shelter's address.
He declined to provide a more specific date.
"Somebody mentioned Christmas a while ago," Dubé said. "Christmas is months. No. It's not going to be Christmas, it's going to be weeks. It's coming soon.
"As you saw upstairs, it's ready — it's almost ready. We just have a few finishing touches to do."
Those touches include finishing walls, bathrooms and floors. He also said the fire alarm system still needs a final test.
The shelter is expected to be divided into four zones. One for men that won't allow people who have consumed drugs or alcohol, one for men that's more permissive, and then two zones with similar rules for women.
On the second floor, the large dorm-like rooms have rows of metal bunk beds and wooden storage lockers.
Dubé expects the second floor has about 70 beds. In total, he said he expects the shelter will have 120 beds.
However, the final number will only be determined after a final inspection by the fire marshal to ensure the plans submitted match what was done.
The building was purchased with $480,000 in joint federal and provincial funding. Dubé said in May he expected the purchase of the building and renovations would cost about $1 million.
On Friday, he said the cost to open the shelter, including buying the building, is now between $1 million and $1.5 million.
"As you see, the work's going on, the employees are paid, everybody's paid," Dubé said.
House of Nazareth plans to continue to run its current homeless shelter on Clark Street, near the old Moncton High School, at least through the winter. Dubé said that should mean the charity offers about 160 beds in the city.
Recent counts have found more than 100 people are sleeping outside in Moncton.