New Brunswick

Homeless advocate says man with signs of frostbite shows need for shelter

A man was taken to hospital in Moncton on Thursday with signs of frostbite after telling police he spent the night outside in a tent. It shows the city doesn't have time to waste arranging an emergency shelter, says the founder of the Humanity Project.

Outreach workers in city have raised concerns about safety of homeless population this winter

A man who stopped a Mountie on Thursday morning showed signs of frostbite, police said. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

A man was taken to hospital in Moncton on Thursday with signs of frostbite after telling police he spent the night outside in a tent in the midst of a multi-agency effort to open more homeless shelter space this winter.

Staff Sgt. Mario Fortin with Codiac Regional RCMP said a Mountie was flagged down near Austin and Church streets around 8:20 a.m.

"The gentleman, who was about 22 years old, said to the officer he had spent the night in a tent and showed the officer signs of frostbite," Fortin said.

The man flagged down an officer near Church and Austin streets, north of downtown Moncton. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

The temperature in Moncton stood at –15.2 C at 8 a.m. with a windchill of –25 C, according to Environment Canada.

It wasn't clear where in the city the man had spent the night and Fortin said he didn't appear to have life-threatening injuries. He was taken to hospital by paramedics after warming up in the police cruiser.

The discovery comes as the community grapples with how to shelter an estimated 120 people living "rough," many outside in tents. The city's two shelters have been operating over capacity.

Outreach workers say that without an out-of-the-cold shelter, they fear someone will die this winter.

On Monday, council set aside money to boost emergency shelter capacity this winter, and Mayor Dawn Arnold sought $400,000 from the province.

One site the city is considering is the Humanity Project facility on St. George Street. The non-profit run by volunteers provides food and donated clothing to those in need.

The Humanity Project on Moncton's St. George Street is one location under consideration for an emergency out-of-the-cold homeless shelter. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

The city has offered $20,000 to get an out-of-the-cold shelter open at the Humanity Project, Charlie Burrell, the group's founder, said Thursday.

"I know it's going to cost a lot more money, for instance for the oil and power, to keep it running for the next four months," he said.

An advocate for Moncton's homeless population worries red tape is slowing the process of getting people off the street. Humanity Project President Charlie Burrell speaks with CBC Reporter Shane Magee. 10:03

Isabelle LeBlanc, the city's director of communications, said the city has identified sites, but a decision will be up to the province.

She wrote that the city has requested $400,000 from the province, which has certain requirements for management of shelters.

Charlie Burrell, the founder of the Humanity Project, stands in its St. George Street location used for feeding people. (Shane Magee/CBC News)

The idea would be to open a shelter from December through the end of March.

"This will be done by working with community agencies who are better equipped to manage such a facility," LeBlanc said. "In the meantime, we are assured that shelters are not turning anyone away."

Burrell expressed frustration Thursday at the pace of dealing with the government to get people off the streets.

"It's a drawn-out process," he said.

He referred to the man found with signs of frostbite earlier in the day and said "we don't have time to waste."

"If it's going to be a hassle, and a hard road to get funding from the province, then we will just unite as a community, get people together and make this happen for the people of the community, so no one dies this winter," Burrell said.

The dining area of the Humanity Project building would be cleared out each night to use as an emergency shelter for homeless people. (Shane Magee/CBC News)

He said he was told any provincial money would have to flow through another group that has charitable status, since the Humanity Project doesn't.

The provincial government was not able to respond to a request for comment late Thursday afternoon. 

The province has not said whether it will provide funds, though Finance Minister Ernie Steeves has suggested something needs to be done to help people.

About the Author

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.