Moncton serves eviction notice to homeless people at tent site
Saying its tolerance for the tent site 'is lowering,' city tells people to leave by Wednesday
Moncton has served an eviction notice to about a dozen homeless people living in tents on city-owned land on Albert Street as part of a broader shift in tolerance toward tenting in the community.
The city is urging those living at the site, which over the summer had as many as 40 people, to move to shelters. The notice was issued Monday, and it calls for those living at the site to be gone by Wednesday.
The city planned to issue such an order once a new homeless shelter nearby opened. But House of Nazareth has yet to open, and there's no clear indication when its shelter at 75 Albert St. will be ready or how many people it will be able to accommodate.
The city barred the media from entering the Albert Street property Monday to talk to residents, but news of the eviction order spread quickly among the city's homeless.
Hailey Hachey, 21, has spent most of the past five years without a home. He knows everyone who lives in the Albert Street tents and spent a night there himself this summer.
He was "pretty bummed out" to hear the news that his friends were being evicted. Hachey said many people, like him, don't want to stay in shelters and prefer to be outside.
"We have authority figure issues," he said. "It's one of the biggest reasons we stay on the streets. There's no authority."
Michael Fougere, 33, is living in a rooming house now but spent much of last winter in an emergency shelter or outside.
He said he knows many of the people who live in the tent city.
"Where are they going to go? What kind of help are they going to get? Cause they don't even have the shelter that they supposedly said they were going to have done up.
"These people can't win. It's ridiculous."
About 125 people are living "rough" in the city, according to a recent count by YMCA's ReConnect street intervention team.
Space available at Harvest House
Catherine Dallaire, Moncton's general manager of recreation, culture and events, said the city believes there are 12 beds free at the two shelters, Harvest House and House of Nazereth's building on Clark Street.
House of Nazareth executive director Jean Dubé did not return requests for comment Monday.
Cal Maskery, executive director of Harvest House, said that with recent cold weather his 44-bed shelter has between 30 and 40 people sleeping in the dorms each night.
"We're trying the best we can to be prepared for whoever comes in," he said.
Maskery said if the number of people exceeds 44, Harvest House can accommodate more people downstairs but would need funding from government to hire additional staff.
"We've been in talks with the [City of Moncton] and with the province about some staffing," he said. "So space, yes. Staffing, as of yet, no for the overflow.
"But our policy has been we don't turn anybody away when they come looking for help."
On Monday, the city issued a news release with what it called a "transition plan" for those living outside as cold weather approaches.
The news release offers few specifics, saying that "more permanent housing options will be sought for as many people as possible" and that in the meantime, the two existing shelters will be relied on to provide emergency housing.
'People have lost their will'
"Our responsibility as a community is to work together over the long term in order to provide the proper housing options," Trevor Goodwin, director of the YMCA ReConnect program, said in the news release.
"An 'out-of-sight, out-of-mind' approach is not sustainable."
At city hall, councillors were told at a committee meeting Monday afternoon that the city was changing its approach to tents on public property.
"Our tolerance for tenting in the city is lowering," Don MacLellan, the city's general manager of community safety services, said. He said city officials and other groups would tell those living at the various known tent sites around the city to relocate.
"An option is not squatting on private property if a private property doesn't want you there, and it isn't using public spaces for tenting or being in a park after 10 p.m.," MacLellan said.
He said several tent sites in the city along High Street and near Castle Manor on Mountain Road have been shut down recently.
Ryder Patriquin, 29, said he was one of the first people living at the Albert Street tent city. He was evicted earlier this summer and has been living in a shelter built from a tarp in various spots throughout Moncton ever since.
He expects people who are forced out of the tent city this week will do the same thing.
"I think it's going to become the problem … again," Patriquin said. "People everywhere, the crime rate might go up again, who knows?"
He said he has found a spot for his tent that is private and safe, and he would welcome some of his old friends from tent city.
"The spot that I have is big enough and welcome for a few people," he said.
"People have lost their will throughout their life to do anything else other than this. It's a comfortable, carefree kind of escape from normal day life — as hard as it is. But sometimes life is harder that the streets."
with files from Vanessa Blanch