New Brunswick

Landlord urges other building owners to open apartments to people without homes

A Saint John landlord is making room in his buildings to help house people struggling with homelessness and says other building owners should do the same.

Gordon Ferris has been housing people with the support of the Human Development Council

Landlord Gordon Ferris says landlords should consider giving back to the community. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

A Saint John landlord is making room in his buildings to help house people struggling with homelessness and says other building owners should do the same.

Gordon Ferris owns about 30 buildings with 220 apartments, most in the city's south end. He said a local social services group is working to house 30 people by Christmas, but it's now time for landlords to step up.

"I think they should give it a try. The supports are there," Ferris told Information Morning Saint John.

Monday marks the first day of the "In From the Cold'' campaign, a project started by the Human Development Council. The group is working with New Brunswick Housing, the New Brunswick Association for Community Living, the John Howard Society and the Elizabeth Fry Society to provide more shelter space and support for people without a home.

According to Cathy Foote, the affordable housing specialist with the council, the group needs landlords' help to make the project a success. 

Ferris said that through the council, he's rented to multiple people who were previously without a home. He said he had good experiences over the last three years, and he wouldn't do anything differently.

If some landlords are concerned about the risk of damage to an apartment, they should remember the risk is there regardless of the tenant, not just when it's someone who's been without a home.

"I don't think the risk outweighs what you're trying to do to take people off the street," he said.

Ferris said the council and its partners provide a lot of help screen perspective tenants. In his experience, rent is always paid.

"They support the tenant to try and keep them on the right path, but they also support the landlord," he said.

Ferris said he still has about four units available, but even one is a good start.

"Stepping stones," he said. "For the most part, I think the landlords are going to be surprised."

Making a difference

Ferris said once people have a stable roof over their heads, they are more likely to see success finding work and settling down.

"If people are homeless, their focus is on where they're going to sleep the next day, where they're going to get their next meal," he said.

He said one success story is of a young woman who had been homeless and moved into one of his apartments but then was ready to move out in less than two years.

"About 18 months later, she called and said, 'You know what? I found a job, I'm working, I've saved money, I'm going to give up this apartment, and I want it to be to go to someone who really needs it now.'"

With files from Information Morning Saint John


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