New Brunswick

Moncton counting on provincial funds for new group housing homeless

Moncton councillors lent verbal support to a new non-profit that plans to buy properties to house homeless people, but millions in city funding to get it started won't flow unless the provincial government also contributes money.

Rising Tide seeks $12 million from province, municipal government

Dale Hicks, president of Moncton-based Food Depot Alimentaire, is among three founders of the Rising Tide Community Initiative Inc. non-profit that aims to offer more affordable housing in Moncton. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Moncton councillors lent verbal support to a new non-profit that plans to buy properties to house homeless people, but millions in city funding to get it started won't flow unless the provincial government also contributes money.

Rising Tide Community Initiatives Inc. was launched by people involved with other non-profits in the community, including the United Way and John Howard Society.

It aims to raise $12 million from the city and provincial government over the next three years to buy vacant or multi-unit derelict homes, renovate them and move homeless people in. It would also provide various support services to those housed. 

Councillors voted unanimously to support a business plan for Rising Tide, which includes the funding request. The group wants $2 million per year from both the city and province with the goal to operate up to 125 housing units by 2023. 

"We think that it's up to levels of government to finally stop talking about it, stop pointing fingers, start doing something," Dale Hicks, president of Moncton-based Food Depot Alimentaire and one of the founders of Rising Tide, said Tuesday. 

'Province will have to step up'

However, Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold said it "won't go forward" without the province. 

"The province will absolutely have to step up," Arnold said. 

The motion approved by council calls for city staff to meet with the province and report back at the March 16 public meeting, just days after the provincial budget.

The request comes at a precarious time for the minority Progressive Conservative government. Premier Blaine Higgs on Sunday halted changes to six rural hospitals following days of protests, the resignation of his deputy premier and the Liberals vowing to topple the government.

On Tuesday, former PC deputy premier Robert Gauvin, now sitting as an independent MLA, said he would vote against the March 10 budget. 

Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers said his party still plans to try to force an election at the first opportunity. 

An election would send the provincial civil service into caretaker mode where it continues to administer basic services, but doesn't make major decisions or adopt new policies. 

Arnold said she lobbied Dorothy Shephard, the province's social development minister, for the funding during Higgs' state of the province address in Fredericton on Jan. 30. She told reporters she doesn't know whether money has been set aside in the provincial budget. 

Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold says the city's share of the spending would require considering what to cut from its operating budget or whether to raise taxes. (Shane Magee/CBC)

That followed Rising Tide meeting with Shephard to outline the plans earlier this year. 

Arnold said city council will either vote to go ahead with the spending at the March 16 meeting, or drop the idea. 

"It is entirely, 100 per cent, contingent on $6 million from the province, $6 million from the municipality," she said.

Hicks said the goal is to hire an executive director and buy the first property, a home with about five housing units, within six months.

'Where will we cut?'

"We're talking about getting 25 people off the street within the first year and into (housing) somewhere," Hicks told reporters. 

Hicks acknowledged political uncertainty in the province could delay those plans. He said an election could set the effort back weeks or months. 

A number of councillors spoke up in favour of the general idea. But it's unclear where the money will come from in the city's $163.7 operating budget for 2020. 

"Where will we cut?" Arnold said. "Or will we raise taxes? These are questions we'll have to grapple with."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC. He can be reached at shane.magee@cbc.ca.

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