New Brunswick

Miramichi's long-awaited shelter leading people from homeless to housed

The city’s first adult facility has helped guide about 50 people into permanent housing, less than a year after officially opening its doors in August.

City’s first adult emergency shelter filling gap in supports

Lindsey Fanjoy is interim executive director of Miramichi Youth House, which operates the new adult emergency shelter in the city. The facility is a retrofitted home that offers six beds. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

Adults experiencing homelessness in Miramichi now have an emergency shelter to turn to, after a long push to address "a desperate need" to help people get off the streets.

The city's first adult facility has helped guide about 50 people into permanent housing, less than a year after officially opening its doors in August.

The Miramichi Adult Emergency Shelter, which is operated by the non-profit Miramichi Youth House, offers six beds set up in a renovated house. It's open seven days a week and serves men and women.

Lindsey Fanjoy, the organization's interim executive director, said the need was high in the community.

"Often people were couchsurfing or living rough so people have been homeless for long extended periods of time," she said. "And what we know is the longer someone's homeless the harder it is to become housed."

WATCH / Take a tour of Miramichi's first adult homeless shelter

How Miramichi's new shelter is guiding people to permanent housing

1 month ago
Duration 2:41
The Miramichi Adult Emergency Shelter is filling a gap in resources for those experiencing homelessness in the area.

Fanjoy said the shelter has served 67 people since opening, with many needing the shelter's services multiple times.

"There's a need for us to be here because 80% of those folks are from Miramichi and why would you want to leave your community, leave the resources you already know, your friends, your family," she said.

Nowhere to go

The city has long had the Miramichi Youth House, providing overnight beds to youth 16 to 18, and the Miramichi Emergency Shelter for Women, for those fleeing domestic violence. Both shelters would receive calls from people looking for a place to stay — but there was nowhere to send them.

Fanjoy said when someone in crisis would come looking for help they had to leave the community to find emergency and transitional housing.

"The only option at that time was, do we send them to Bathurst? Do we send them to Moncton? Do we send them to Fredericton? What is that next step, because there wasn't something here," she said.

One of the bedrooms at the new emergency shelter, which has space for six guests each night. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

Calls for the creation of a shelter in Miramichi began to grow in 2019, after a rooming house was closed because it was deemed unsafe by the Fire Marshal's office. That left about 50 people homeless, with some setting up tents on the property.

Then a fire at an apartment building that same summer left another 50 people scrambling to find an affordable place to live.

Long push for shelter

Miramichi Youth House decided to start the process to bring a new shelter to the area nearly two years ago.

The organization's previous executive director, Samantha Fairweather, and project manager Kaitlin Carroll applied for funding and began searching for a space.

Staff at the Miramichi Adult Emergency Shelter hold a meeting in the living room space. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

It received funding from Reaching Home, a grant program with the federal government.

Then, the Department of Social Development made a housing unit available in a residential neighbourhood, which was retrofitted into the shelter last year.

Finding permanent housing

After opening, it took five days before the first guest arrived. Then word quickly spread around the community and the house has been frequently full ever since.

Staff prepare meals for guests in a kitchen and help connect them with resources, from obtaining new identification cards to applying for social assistance for the first time.

The shelter offers a housing "navigation" program to help guide people through the steps they need to find a permanent place to live.

Liz Burns is the housing navigator at the Miramichi Adult Emergency Shelter, helping guests find their way into a permanent place to live. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

Liz Burns, the housing navigator, said she works directly with each guest when they arrive to start a plan and get them "housing ready." 

"When folks are chronically homeless it's really difficult to learn how to not be in survival mode," she said. "When you're in survival mode, the idea of getting up and having breakfast is so far beyond what some folks are at."

Fanjoy said Miramichi has welcomed the addition of the shelter so far, with community members filling the basement with donations of clothing and dropping off meals almost every week. Before it opened, staff went door-to-door in the area to tell neighbours about it.

"Without the open heart to give people a space to grow and find their footing in life, we're not going to see a change," she said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandre Silberman

Video journalist

Alexandre Silberman is a video journalist with CBC News based in Moncton. He has previously worked at CBC Fredericton, Power & Politics, and Marketplace. You can reach him by email at: alexandre.silberman@cbc.ca

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