St. Mary's First Nation to open homeless shelter next week
First Nation hopes to offer safe, warm place to homeless in Fredericton community
St. Mary's First Nation is hoping to help the more than 10 homeless members of its community by opening a new shelter at the beginning of next month.
The band council is under a tight Dec. 1 deadline, and the office building is still under renovations, with a little more than a week left before the doors are to open.
The 3,200-square-foot shelter, which was the old band council office, is something Chief Allan Polchies Jr. said he knew the community needed.
He said it will save lives.
Winter came early this year and brought two major storms in November. Polchies said bringing people in from the cold is important because of the long winter ahead.
"We have members living in tents over there," Polchies said of a collection of tents on the other side of the St. John River in downtown Fredericton.
He said he wanted to create a safe, warm space for St. Mary's members and the general public.
"We want to save lives."
The shelter will include space for both men and women, showers and a kitchenette. Two staff members have been hired to work at the 24-hour shelter and a community doctor will visit people staying in the shelter.
Met with other shelters
Warren Maddox, executive director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters, said he met with the organizers from St. Mary's to discuss various policies for operating a shelter for the homeless.
He welcomed the creation of another shelter in the city.
"It gives people who are out in the cold another option," he said. "One that is well-run, well-resourced, properly staffed and believes in the basic things you need to believe in.
Maddox said the homeless shelters in Fredericton are now housing more than 40 people. Ten are at the Grace House for women, another 28 are at St. John House for men, which was set up to hold 25 men — and four are at Brunswick House.
Maddox estimated between 200 and 350 people are homeless in the city.
Already have request
Two homeless people have already asked to stay at the St. Mary's shelter.
"We want to get this project going," Polchies said. "It's off the ground."
Polchies doesn't know what the operating budget will be for the 20-bed facility but said donations have been pouring in since organizers announced it.
Along with a warm place and one hot meal a day, community members will have a safe space for healing too, he said.
Polchies said while St. Mary's First Nation members will get first priority, the shelter will not turn anyone away.
Polchies said they will encourage physical, mental and spiritual health.
"It was a little seed and it's just blooming," he said. "It's just branching off into many different positive initiatives."