Tent city doesn't help homeless problem go away, advocate says
At least 9 people are living in tents set up behind Government House in Fredericton
Behind Government House in Fredericton, Donald McLeod is busy making sure residents living in tents are safe.
"I'm safe and I make sure the girls are safe. … As long as I'm around, nothing's going to happen."
Although he doesn't think the living conditions of this tent city are too bad, McLeod said another year-round shelter is needed for the city's homeless.
"There's always people on the street," he said.
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A handful of tents have been set up along the St. John River after the emergency shelter closed down on May 1.
The out-of-the-cold shelter on Brunswick Street gave roughly 20 people a place to stay at night after opening in December. About 100 people used the emergency shelter while it was open.
Tents used for sleeping
At the tent city, there are books, lawn chairs and beds, and it's right next door to the Fredericton Community Kitchen. Fredericton police often come around to monitor the area.
"I don't think we're suffering all that bad," said McLeod, whose name is also on the list for subsidized housing.
People who live in the tents are out and about during the day and come back to sleep at night.
McLeod said he chooses to sleep in a tent because there's no room at local shelters.
"It's more like I'm sleeping in a tent than I'm living in a tent," he said.
Warren Maddox, executive director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters Inc., said he would like to see the people living in tents get the help they need through official channels.
"People that are vulnerable tend to sort of lie outside the system, and it's hard for us to work on harm reduction or deal with mental health issues or addiction issues if we can't work with them," he said.
Getting ready for winter
Agencies are already starting to plan for the fall and next winter.
Since February, he said, discussions have been going on about increasing capacity, rapid rehousing and whether to build another emergency shelter.
"We're in the beautiful part, the first part of July, but all of us are sitting around a table looking at November and December and trying to figure out what is a path forward that is sustainable," he said.
According to a letter sent to the city in May, the Department of Social Development, plans to spend $53,000 for a new 20-bed emergency shelter in Fredericton. The letter from the minister, Dorothy Shephard, did not elaborate on how a shelter of that size could be created with $53,000.
The province will also provide 35 rent subsidies for individuals ready to transition into more permanent homes as well as $140,000 for support services to ensure those individuals remain housed.
Shelters almost full
Right now, he said, there is some room available at the men's shelter, St. John House, but Grace House, the women's shelter, is at capacity, and Brunswick Home, a transition house, will be full this week.
He said the city's homeless shelters house between 38 to 42 people on any given day.
"The biggest criteria is really sort of following the rules," he said.