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The Social Development building on Somerset Street in Saint John will be used as an out-of-the-cold shelter. Image: ©2023 Google

Winter shelter opening in Saint John, still no location for St. Stephen

By Brad Perry Nov 21, 2023 | 6:42 AM

An out-of-the-cold shelter will open Saint John’s north end this winter, the province confirmed Monday.

The seasonal shelter will be located in the Social Development building at 344 Somerset Street.

Rebecca Howland, a spokesperson for the Department of Social Development, said the hub will open on Dec. 1 and will “repurpose as a fully operational hub” in April 2024.

The hub will work to “prevent homelessness and support unhoused New Brunswickers all year round,” she said.

Outflow Ministry will operate the hub and “will work in collaboration with Fresh Start, which provides outreach services to those in encampments and the on streets,” said Howland.

Outflow currently operates a 30-bed men’s shelter in the city’s uptown. The department did not provide any details about how many beds will be located in the seasonal shelter.

Saint John’s former Hilton Belyea Arena on the west side was used as an out-of-the-cold shelter last winter.

But city staff said the arena would not be an option this year as it would require “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in upgrades.

“Really, the province is saying that it’s not to be reused. It’s not an option,” Brent McGovern, the city’s chief administrative officer, told council in June.

The Human Development Council (HDC) said there were at least 237 people experiencing homelessness as of October.

Around 70 per cent 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.

However, the homeless population is believed to be much higher as the figures only include individuals who consent to be counted.

‘Suitable location’ sought for similar shelter in St. Stephen

Meanwhile, Howland said the province has committed to funding a similar shelter in St. Stephen once the community has identified an “appropriate location.”

“Since the summer, Social Development has been actively involved with a local group to find a suitable location for an out-of-the-cold shelter,” she said in the statement.

The number of people experiencing homelessness in St. Stephen stands at around 100, according to one local group.

Howland said the department recently signed a contract with Neighbourhood Works for professional outreach services.