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The exterior of Saint John City Hall is pictured in this file photo. Image: staff photo

Saint John To Work On Long-Term Homelessness Strategy

By Brad Perry Feb 13, 2023 | 8:45 AM

Saint John council has endorsed a motion to create a long-term homelessness strategy for the city.

The motion was brought forward by Coun. David Hickey during last Monday’s meeting.

It asked that council “engage with the province on their plans to address the homelessness crisis.”

The motion also directed staff to “develop a strategy to address the City’s response to homelessness in collaboration with the province and community partners.”

Hickey said with the out-of-the-cold shelter at the Hilton Belyea arena set to close at the end of March, more people will be put back on the street.

That, he said, will put more stress on the city’s other shelters and increase the need we are still seeing on our streets.

“Our non-profits have been in defence mode for a long time in battling this crisis. I hope that this effort, that this strategy can work to get them out of that,” Hickey told council.

Hickey said the strategy should address the gaps in the city’s shelter network and identify funding supports, while also ensuring there are “direct pathways for people out of shelters.”

“This would really be a way to focus on a long-term policy that delivers effective results for the community,” he said.

Homeless numbers

As of the end of December, the Human Development Council said there were at least 183 people experiencing homelessness, an increase of 18 compared to the month before.

Seven-in-10 were considered chronically homeless, meaning they have been homeless for at least six months over the past year or 18 months over the past three years.

Brent McGovern, the city’s chief administrative officer, said Hickey’s motion enhances what is in the city’s work plan for 2023.

“It really calls on council to engage with the province on their plans to address the homelessness crisis in the province. Having council involved is important,” said McGovern.

“It also calls on all of us to work with partners to identify funding supports which, for the homelessness strategy, funding is what needs to be front and centre.”

Motion receives almost unanimous support

While Hickey’s motion received majority support from council, one member voted against it.

Coun. Gary Sullivan said he agrees the city has to do something to help address homelessness.

But Sullivan said it is a provincial responsibility and not one the city should be taking a leadership role on.

The councillor said the provincial and federal governments “get a whole lot more money from taxes” than the city does and have more resources to lead the file.

“Perhaps another level of government might say ‘good, Saint John’s taking a leadership role, we can divert our resources elsewhere because they’re looking after Saint John,'” he said.

“I think we have been punching above our weight class already and our response, I think, has been fantastic.”


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