The Fredericton Men’s Shelter is tucked away behind layers of cold brick government buildings and snow; you wouldn’t notice it from the street. The shelter houses over 30 men and if there are no beds available, it means sleeping on the street.
Thirty-six-year-old Bryan Mckinley knows all about that.
“It’s pretty traumatizing to end up out here once,” McKinley said.
Last January, the shelter reached out to the City of Fredericton to reduce of its water and sewage bills to help reduce costs. The request was never endorsed in city hall, but executive director of Fredericton homeless shelters Warren Maddox didn’t get the memo until last week.
City Councilor Michael O’Brien is one of the councilors who were reviewing the shelter’s case. He said that despite Maddox’s lack of awareness, the request’s fate has been set.
“The decision as been made. We cannot accommodate it… I don’t know if an official letters went through but they requested something and they did not get endorsement of it,“ O’Brien said.
Maddox wasn’t expecting an answer right away from the city and knows requests to City Council can take time. But men like McKinley say they need to know how their conditions may change.
“It’s bad enough now because it’s stressful with a bunch of guys living in the same environment. Most of us aren’t doing so well,” McKinley said.
Last year he used the men’s shelter for six months. He too was unaware of outcome of the shelter’s request, even though his survival often hinges on the shelter.
“Anything to hurt it would send a bunch of us bugging out in the street probably. I don’t know if I’m going to end up living in the streets this summer and it’s hard to stay there. That might be the tipping point that sends more of us out in the street.”
Maddox explained the request in an interview before he learned it was rejected. He said any cost he can cut frees up money elsewhere in their budget for upgrades and maintenance the shelter needs to do.
“You know, we have a pretty large budget of over $550,000 a year so every little bit helps in terms of being able to get the revenue and expense areas to match up better than they have been,” Maddox said.
O’Brien said social services are not something the municipal government’s taxes are for and that the shelter’s monetary problems are a provincial issue.
“The city has always taken the stand that we don’t get involved in social issues because, where would it ever end? Where would you say we can support one group and then we can’t support the others.”
Maddox was surprised by the lack of communication, but not by the decision.
“We haven’t heard really heard anything officially from the city as to whether they were going to try and do something and proceed or not so there’s a bit of news in terms of hearing it for the first time but it’s not surprising but will keep plugging away.”
O’Brien was also surprised by the lack of communication and is unaware where it broke down. He says he will continue to try and find non-cash ways to help the homeless, while Maddox says he will continue to exhaust all avenues to find support for the shelter.
Maddox says the shelter’s been working with the city to help the homeless in other ways like the Community Action Group on Homelessness and Poverty.
“Ultimately that’s for councilor O’Brien to sort of champion through City Council and to see what their role is going to be in terms of supporting the overall strategy behind ending chronic and – ending homelessness period- which really translates into ending chronic homelessness and minimizing the impact of homelessness.”
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