New Brunswick

Humanity Project seeks $3M for farm offering mental health, addictions services

A Moncton non-profit is asking the municipality for $3 million in startup money for a farm where it hopes to offer mental health and rehabilitation services.

Moncton non-profit purchased large farm near Salisbury last year

Aerial shot of farm with white buildings
A year ago, the Humanity Project bought a large farm property in Little River, south of Salisbury, that it is seeking funding to renovate and offer various services. (Humanity Project/Facebook)

A Moncton non-profit is seeking $3 million in start-up money for a farm where it hopes to offer mental health and rehabilitation services.

The Humanity Project, which offers hot meals to the city's homeless, purchased a 187-acre farm south of Salisbury last year. 

Founder Charlie Burrell outlined a business plan for the farm during a city council committee meeting on Monday. No final decision on funding has been made. 

It calls for $1 million per year for three years in part for renovations to existing farm buildings, adding housing, and to cover operational costs like support services.

"The farm's happening," Burrell told councillors. "If we don't have your help, it might take us five or 10 years to make it happen, but I will work until I die to make this happen for other people in our community."

Bearded man in baseball cap and hoodie.
Charles Burrell, the founder of the Humanity Project, says 78 people are already interested in going to the farm. (Shane Magee/CBC)

He said they will also seek funding from Dieppe and Riverview as well as the provincial and federal governments.

He said the goal is to only require startup funding from the municipality with long-term funding agreements from other levels of government as well as private donations. 

Burrell said in an interview he's not concerned about being able to fill roles offering support services, saying they've already heard from people who want to work at the farm. 

Burrell said intake would take place at the organization's St. George Street location. Burrell said 78 people who have expressed interest in attending the farm once it is ready. 

Those who want to use the services would be transported to the farm where services such as detox or specialized trauma-based therapies would be provided.

People would start in communal housing until ready for more independent living in small cabins that would be constructed on the property. 

Burrell said they hope to work with Rising Tide Community Initiatives Inc., a separate non-profit that is building affordable housing in the Moncton, so those leaving the farm could be provided shelter in the city. 

It's unclear how long it will take city staff to review the business plan presented Monday before the item returns to council for a decision. 

Several councillors voiced tentative support during the meeting. 

'We need to do something'

"We really, really have to look at this," Coun. Bryan Butler said. 

"I like the plan, not only to house, but to provide treatment," Coun. Paul Richard said. 

Deputy Mayor Charles Leger said councillors are hearing a lot of frustration from city residents and businesses over issues related to mental health, addictions and homelessness. 

"We need to do something," Leger said. "You have to start somewhere. I guess what I'm really struggling with is how to even achieve some type of control, because right now it almost seems like it's so out of control."

Burrell responded that crystal methamphetamine "is tearing apart our city," and that he doesn't think the municipality can afford not to support his plan.