New Brunswick

​Moncton seeks solution after 4 tent cities pop up

With winter approaching, the city of Moncton is concerned about the residents of four tent cities that have popped up over the summer.

Humanity project distributed 93 tents to homeless people in Moncton over the summer

Donald Maurel lives in one of the tents near the Moncton Curling Club. (Suzanne Lapointe/CBC)

With winter approaching, the city of Moncton is concerned about the residents of four tent cities that have popped up over the summer.

It's hired a consultant to conduct a housing report in order to find solutions for the growing homelessness problem.

The tent communities are located in Centennial Park, Mapleton Park, close to Vaughan Harvey Boulevard and in front of the Moncton Curling Club.

Roger Gagnon, who has been homeless for over 20 years, lives in a grouping of tents near Moncton's downtown.

He considers this the safest tent city he's lived in.

"I've seen Toronto, I've seen Vancouver. Tent cities up there are like the worst place you guys could imagine. But here, it's actually a nice place to lay back and call home." he said.

Roger Gagnon in his tent with camp dog Luna (Suzanne Lapointe/CBC)
Roger's home at the moment is a tent set up with lighting, tables and chairs.

He says daily life at the camp is good for him most of the time.

On the bad days, he takes comfort in the company of Luna, a dog belonging to another resident.

 "It keeps all the emotion and all the bad things away, it's like therapy," he said.

He and the other residents even have access to an outdoor portable toilet, provided by the Humanity Project, a charitable organization that focuses on poverty alleviation. 

How it started

Charles Burrell, who runs the organization, has given 93 tents to homeless people this summer.

Some of those tents house families or couples and he estimates over 100 people have been living in tents this summer.

Charles Burrell of The Humanity Project in Moncton distributed tents to 93 homeless people in the city this summer. (Tori Weldon/CBC)
His organization provides resources like clean water and food to the residents of the tent communities.

"It started because of an overabundance of people this summer that went homeless either for circumstances or the rooming house closures," he explained.

He said that every year, he sees transient people set up in Moncton over the summer, however, this year by far most of the homeless people he's seen are locals that have lost their homes.

City responds

Kayla BreeLove Carter, the city's community development officer for social inclusion, says the city is concerned that the residents of the tent cities are vulnerable to crime, discrimination, and the elements.

She hopes the housing report will shed some light on what type of housing is needed, how much housing is needed, and what demographics need housing.

She also hoped the report would show why two of the three shelters in Moncton are under-utilized.

"Each have about 30 beds [...] accessible and on average they are usually only full 18 beds daily," she said.

"We spoke to some of the landlords of rooming houses, and again, themselves they say 'Sometimes we're only 50 per cent full.'"

Burrell believes a contributing factor is the strict rules set by some shelters.

"One of the shelters in the winter time you have to be back at 6:30 p.m.," he said. "If they show up and they're late they can be kicked out for 30 days."