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

City works to clean up vacant encampments

By Brad Perry Apr 6, 2023 | 3:00 PM

Saint John is working to clean up vacant encampments throughout the city, according to its chief administrative officer.

In an update to council on Monday, Brent McGovern said the Human Development Council (HDC) has seen a decline in the number of unhoused people.

HDC reported 202 people experiencing homelessness as of January. McGovern said that number has since fallen to around 171.

“This is a positive trend and will likely result in some of the encampments that we had seen no longer being active,” said McGovern.

“We’re going to be working with HDC and the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure to visit these encampments and to remove any items from the encampments that have been vacated.”

McGovern attributes some of the decrease in the number of unhoused people to the recently-opened Rose House, a 12-unit transitional house for women.

While numbers have been trending downward, that could change once the city’s temporary out-of-the-cold shelter in the former Hilton Belyea Arena closes at the end of April.

Coun. David Hickey asked what actions are being taken related to active encampments throughout the city.

According to McGovern, staff from HDC visit the encampments “on a regular basis” and ensuring they have a current list of individuals on their by-names list.

The Saint John Fire Department has also visited a number of the encampments to “look at the sites and provide some guidance,” he said.

“Staff will be going out and supplying garbage bags to these sites to also provide them an opportunity to get rid of items that they no longer need so that we can come by and pick it up,” said McGovern.

The CAO said staff are doing their best to keep the sites as clean as possible but admits it can be a challenge.

Many of the encampments are located on provincially-owned land, said McGovern, which means the city has to work with the province.

“We are not resourced for this. We don’t have all the resources in order to handle this,” he said.

McGovern said the city is also looking forward to see details of the province’s housing strategy set to be released this summer.

In the meantime, McGovern said any residents who have concerns about encampments in their neighbourhood can contact the city’s customer service centre at 506-658-4455.


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