New Brunswick

Community offers help to people evicted from Moncton tent city

People in Moncton are offering help to the residents of the Albert Street tent city as they pack up their things and look for new places to live.

Rainy weather delays the closure of the Albert Street tent city until Thursday

Rick Thornhill was at the Albert Street tent site on Wednesday, helping a friend who lives there. He doesn't have room in his home for his friend, but says he will do whatever he can to help, including storing his belongings. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

Rick Thornhill was parked across from the entrance to the Albert Street tent city on Wednesday morning, waiting in the rain for a friend who lives there.

"I'm just trying to help out one of these guys, who is now down and out over here," the Riverview man said.

"He's helping me out with a little bit of work, and now they're getting kicked out, so I've offered him a place to bring his stuff. I haven't got room for him in my house, but at least his stuff won't be scattered all over Moncton."

On Monday, the City of Moncton issued an eviction notice to remaining residents of the tent site, where as many as 40 people were living over the summer.

The city said its "tolerance for tenting" in public spaces is lowering and Don MacLellan, the city's general manager of community safety services, said officials are letting people at all tent sites know they must leave.

According to the latest numbers from the Greater Moncton Homelessness Steering Committee, 134 people are living outside in the city.

We're receiving lots of phone calls and emails from people wanting to volunteer and [asking] how can we come and help the people transition from being in the tent city?- Trevor Goodwin, YMCA ReConnect

Thornhill said his friend doesn't have any money and so far, he doesn't have anywhere to go.

"He's just kicking and scratching right now to eat every day. My wife's been making sandwiches … and I give them to him and he enjoys them and he thanks me.

"This morning, he said, 'I don't know why you're helping me.' I said, 'Well you know I can't help all of you, but I can sure try helping one.'"

Some don't know where they'll go

Standing at the entrance to the Albert Street tent city, Trevor Goodwin, director of the YMCA ReConnect street intervention program, has been helping residents pack their belongings into waterproof bins.

Media were not allowed to enter the tent site.

Trevor Goodwin of the YMCA ReConnect program is helping the eight remaining residents of the Albert Street tent city to pack their things and find new places to live. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

Goodwin said some people are planning to move in with friends or family while they wait for housing, and others are going to one of the shelters.

He said some still don't know where they will go, and many are asking what happened to a new emergency shelter that was promised.

The reaction, obviously is, 'This sucks,' Goodwin said of people who have been living in the tents. 

"There's been a lot of talk from the population that we're dealing with: 'When is the new shelter going to be opening? We thought that was going to be our home — or at least an option for us and it currently isn't.'"

There's still no clear timeline for when a new House of Nazareth shelter on Albert Street will open. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Cal Maskery, the director of Harvest House, said his shelter is already at capacity for its staffing level. With colder weather coming, he expects the need to grow and said up to 100 people may be at the shelter.

"We have the space, we could accommodate more, but we just need staffing to do it," Maskery said.

"As the weather gets colder of course more are going to come."

He said the shelter can accommodate 34 men and ten women. Any more than that would require additional staff and resources.

House of Nazareth had announced a new shelter would open at 75 Albert St. in August, but no building permits have been issued, and there is no indication of when it will be ready or how many people it will accommodate.

Maskery said the delay in opening the House of Nazareth shelter is making it difficult for Harvest House to plan ahead.

"We'd just like to know what's happening so we know the timeline, how long we need to do this, what we need to prepare for."

Cal Maskery, executive director of Harvest House shelter, says he needs more staff to accommodate the growing need for beds as tent sites close. 0:50

Thornhill, who worries that people will end up "laying on street corners," would like to see people allowed to stay at the tent city or another public space.

"They're people. I don't know what else to say. I'm frustrated and a little pissed off that the city, especially with the weather like this, they're kicking them out of their own little homes."

'They deserve more than sleeping in tents'

On Wednesday, the city extended the deadline for leaving the tent site until Thursday, to allow people time to pack and move in dryer conditions.

Goodwin said he has been impressed with the way the City of Moncton has treated people at the tent city and with the response from citizens since the eviction order was announced.

Security prevented anyone from entering the tent city on Albert Street but City of Moncton staff and outreach organizations are providing transportation to people and their belongings to shelters. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

"There's actually a lot of community support," he said. "We're receiving lots of phone calls and emails from people wanting to volunteer and [asking] how can we come and help the people transition from being in the tent city? 

"So that's a positive thing that we hadn't seen a lot of during the summer."

Goodwin isn't asking for any specific donations but said he wants the community to be mindful that many of the people he is working with are going through a very difficult transition.

"These are still human beings and they deserve more than sleeping in tents, and more than being shuffled around, and that's the situation that they're in right now."

About the Author

Vanessa Blanch is a reporter based in Moncton. She has worked across the country for CBC for 20 years. If you have story ideas to share please email: vanessa.blanch@cbc.ca

With files from Information Morning Moncton & Kate Letterick

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