New Brunswick

Fredericton business advocate, homeless activist disagree about state of city

The City of Fredericton should be less concerned with its finances and pay more attention to eliminating homelessness, an advocate for the homeless says.

'It's almost like they stop at the middle class and don't bother going any further down'

A Fredericton homeless advocate says the city isn't doing enough for low-income families or the local organizations who help them. (CBC)

The City of Fredericton should be less concerned with its finances and pay more attention to eliminating homelessness, an advocate for the homeless says.

"There's lots of things in Fredericton to do to help out and not worry so much about their debt," said Dan Weston, co-ordinator for the Fredericton Anti-Poverty Organization, which provides emergency services to low-income families.

Weston accused the city of not doing enough to assist low-income families and the local organizations that help them. 

"It's almost like they stop at the middle class and don't bother going any further down," Weston said Wednesday, the day before Mayor Mike O'Brien's state of the city address.

This year, the city has faced a number of challenges that include trying to house vulnerable people through a long, cold winter.

In an effort to end chronic homelessness, the city set aside two parcels of land for micro housing units, The land is on St. Mary's and Regent streets.

Last November, the city agreed to open an emergency out-of-the-cold shelter at the former Anglican bishop's house, even though the space wasn't zoned properly for a shelter. The Fredericton mayor has also said he expects another emergency out-of-the-cold shelter to open in the capital city next winter.

CBC News has asked to interview someone with the city about any further plans to tackle homelessness.

Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien will give his state of the city address on Thursday. (CBC)

But Weston said the city should come up with different ways to help local organizations that work with Fredericton's homeless and low-income families, such as providing them with vehicles, cheaper rent and subsidies.

"I think Fredericton can do a lot more," he said.

Feeding Fredericton's hungry 

Every week, the non-profit organization provides food from the Fredericton Community Kitchen to people in need, including many immigrants with large families.  

Our community needs to grow in the next 25 years to be able to support the economy that's here.-Krista Ross, CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce

"They're there because they're hungry," he said. "There's no way anybody told them how much it's going to cost to feed seven kids when they get to Canada."

To help low-income families, "a strong, robust economy.," is important, said Krista Ross, CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce.

"We need to have a vibrant private sector, we need to have a growing small business sector," she said.

"I see positive things happening."

With 1,470 immigrants who have settled into the community, more than 24 businesses opening over the past year and the expansion of the Fredericton International Airport, positive things are happening to grow the local economy, she said.

Krista Ross, the CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, says the city and the mayor have been leaders in addressing the city's homeless issue. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)
 

"Our community needs to grow in the next 25 years to be able to support the economy that's here," said Ross, who represents about 1,000 members of the business community.

Chamber members are feeling optimistic about the state of the city, she said.

 

Collaboration is key

Ross said the city is moving in the right direction, and the mayor has been a leader in supporting awareness of homelessness and people in need.

"Just this week I saw on social media that 20 people have moved out of the shelter and into homes of their own, and I think this is wonderful progress," she said.

While affordability is challenging in any urban community, Ross said it's important for the business community, all three levels of government, and non-profit organizations to work together to support people living on low incomes.

"We do a lot of advocacy work and we work with all three levels of government on issues that are of concern to the business community," she said. "But sometimes the best way to do that is to try to form partnerships."

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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