Volunteer coordinator of Saint John’s Out of the Cold Shelter, Fern Bennett, thinks the government is not doing enough to fix homelessness in New Brunswick.
“I believe the issue of homelessness is not adequately addressed because of the general public’s perception that there are adequate services and even more so the belief that homelessness is solely the result of bad choices.”
On Wednesday night, the Community Action Group of Homelessness (CAGH) held a fundraising event in Fredericton called “Let’s Get Frank About Homelessness.”
Event coordinator, Timothy Ross, said the event was sold out with an attendance of about 500 people.
Ross said the event was held to “illustrate the opportunity to end homelessness in NB cities. Imagine 10 years from now, what kind of city do you want to live in?”
Ross was referring to the so-called “10-year plan” to end homelessness. This is modeled off of the Calgary Housing Model.
The replication in Fredericton is specifically working on the “Housing First” initiative.
Former Premier Frank McKenna spoke at the fundraising event and announced his donation of $100,000 to the cause. The event raised almost $160,000 and tickets were $175 per person.
“McKenna definitely brings star power to the issue,” said NDP leader Dominic Cardy.
Cardy attended the event and said it “sends a good message that is too often brushed under the rug.”
“Tim Ross did a great job of raising the profile.”
Cardy also enjoyed Tim Richter’s speech. Richter is the President and CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH).
“Richter said last night that these programs will reduce time and money spent in court systems…as well as saving lives this program is also saving money,” said Cardy.
Although this event was a success, Cardy criticized the city’s lack of support to homelessness.
“Fredericton does not contribute at all to the homeless shelter. They need to put some investment in there. It is time for the mayor and council to stand up.”
The Fredericton Homeless Shelter is forced to fundraise more than half of its annual budget from the community, according to its website.
There are about 300 homeless in Fredericton and 2,000 people province-wide, said Ross.
“However, this is not a true reflection as some people sleep outside or coach-surf.”
Although the Out of the Cold Shelter volunteer, Fern Bennett, works in Saint John she agrees about the lack of government funding for homelessness throughout the province.
The shelter she volunteers at is for men at the Grace Presbyterian Church in Saint John and was created for only the coldest months.
“As of March 19 we provided services for 63 different men with varying lengths of stay totaling 637 beds,” said Bennett.
She said there are more homeless men than women in the city because there are better services for women.
The Out of Cold shelter not only provides food and a place to stay for guests but also provides meetings with a professional to help find a solution.
Talking with the professional is helpful for most guests to find a fix to homelessness but sometimes these men have too much of a lack of hope Bennett said.
“One guy’s exit plan is to commit a crime so he can be sent back to prison where he has shelter and 3 meals a day.”
Bennett hopes for better services for the homeless such as this one man.
“I’d like to see more programs or spaces for people with mental health issues or simply loneliness to feel a sense of community, contribution, learning, and a design model that tries to blur the line between ‘us and them.’”