Province eyes plan to tackle homelessness, social development minister says
CBC New Brunwswick's political panel debates the provincial government's role in addressing homelessness
The Progressive Conservative government is working on a plan to help homeless people after Fredericton's temporary winter shelter closes, Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard said Thursday.
An overnight shelter in the city's downtown opened last fall because of a lack of beds at other shelters in the city, but it will close March 31.
Shephard said she was surprised by a letter Fredericton city council wrote to her this week, asking the province to step up and help with homelessness.
"We have the community partners all working together now," Shephard said on the CBC New Brunswick Political Panel podcast.
She didn't expand on provincial plans to help the people who face sleeping outdoors again when the shelter closes.
A housing plan will be shared with the public soon, she said.
The city's letter to Shephard said the city doesn't have the mandate, expertise or resources to provide social programs and temporary shelter services.
Shephard said there's no easy solution to the problem of homelessness.
"It's been around for quite some time, and government after government tries to deal with it the best way they can."
Liberal MLA Lisa Harris, the former minister for seniors and long-term care, said she's not sure the provincial government will be able to follow through with its plan.
"March 31 isn't going to be a warm [and] sunny day probably, and yes, the problem of homelessness has been around for a very long time, but it certainly has escalated just in this past year," Harris said.
"We have many different community groups doing the best that they can, but obviously they don't have the money that allows them to be able to help these people."
Harris said this is a "time-sensitive issue," and she's afraid people are going to be on the streets again in April.
"It's not just the City of Fredericton's issue. It's a New Brunswick issue."
Green Party Leader David Coon said there are things the minister can do within her department to help with homelessness.
"There are people in shelters who can't get into subsidized housing because … they were in subsidized housing some years ago and maybe they owe $650 or something, and they can't get back into subsidized housing," Coon said.
"Those kind of issues need to be addressed, so that we can reduce the number of people who are in shelters who can be housed more easily."
People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin said municipalities should look after "these types of social issues."
"The public sector managing this ship of trying to build an economy and trying to look after our homeless and everything else it tries to do is just not realistic," he said.