Fredericton police initiate project that permits tent-sites for city's homeless
New initiative comes just over a year after tent city behind Government House was dismantled
The Fredericton Police Force has found a new way to deal with homelessness in New Brunswick's capital.
Police Chief Roger Brown said police are helping set up small controlled encampments in different parts of the city.
"It's more of an evolution than a brand new approach," said Brown during an interview with Information Morning Fredericton.
Last year, a tent site behind Government House was dismantled over safety concerns.
Brown said the new approach came about after community volunteers approached the force offering to help with site supervision and maintenance.
Basic services will be provided
Basic services like porta–potties and garbage pickup will be provided.
Brown said the project has been going on for about a month now.
There are campsites behind Government House, near the Devon Trail, near the City Motel and on private property on Charlotte Street.
Brown said the sites weren't chosen. Instead, they're places where people have naturally migrated to.
"Those are sites we are monitoring," he said.
The smaller sites will give the city's homeless a measure of privacy and stability. It will also help prevent people from setting up tents in more public spaces in the city's downtown.
"We are trying to allow the residents of the city to move freely and not have to worry about a tent encampment," he said.
Each site will be allowed to have about four tents.
Although the tent sites won't resolve homelessness, Brown said it will provide services that will hopefully lead into permanent housing and addiction and mental health care.
'Change is going to happen'
Warren Maddox, executive director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters Inc., said it can be difficult for people living in tents to access support like mental health care. But he's willing to see how the new initiative works out.
It is believed there are at least 30 people living rough in Fredericton.
"Change is going to happen, we need to embrace it and go with it or try to resist it and be overwhelmed," Maddox said.
"It's worth trying because, what are our other options?"
Initially, Maddox said he was concerned about tents being set up because of the large amount of people in one area.
"That doesn't work," he said.
Maddox has been meeting with the police chief about the initiative. Maddox said he wishes some of the city's core agencies would've been more involved with the initiative a bit sooner.
"We have some points of disagreements but by and large, for the most part we're on the same page," Maddox said.
Brown said if tenters cause any trouble, they will be forced to move along and illegal activity won't be tolerated.
"We haven't thrown enforcement out the window," Brown said.
With files from Information Morning Fredericton