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Greg Bishop is a senior director with the Human Development Council. Image: Submitted

Organization hopes to see homeless numbers stabilize in 2024

By Brad Perry Jan 2, 2024 | 5:22 AM

Homelessness in New Brunswick became a more visible social issue in 2023, according to one organization in the province.

Hundreds of people are experiencing homelessness in the province’s three largest cities, and the problem is also growing in smaller communities.

The Human Development Council conducted Point in Time counts in April to get a better idea of just how many people are experiencing homelessness.

Greg Bishop, a senior director with the organization, said they saw significant increases in the province’s three largest cities compared to two years earlier.

“There was a 72 per cent increase in the number of shelter users and a 177 per cent increase in the number of people who are out of door,” Bishop said in a recent interview.

The count found at least 644 people experiencing homelessness across Saint John, Moncton and Fredericton.

As of November, that number had increased to at least 812, with nearly three-in-four people experiencing chronic homelessness.

Bishop said as the homeless population grows across the province, the response to the situation has also evolved.

He has seen growing momentum at the community, municipal and provincial level to help those in need. That includes additional government funding to help community service organizations on the frontline of the crisis.

“It does take a little while for those funding commitments and programs to get some momentum and to increase capacity to better serve,” said Bishop.

Bishop welcomed recent provincial government programs, such as the rent bank, as well as plans to release a homelessness strategy in 2024.

While the homelessness situation may seem easy to solve at first glance, Bishop said that is not the case.

“With the current affordability crisis, housing crisis, it becomes a little bit more complicated, particularly when we add in challenges related to substance use and mental health and overall wellness,”

Looking ahead to the new year, he is looking to see some stabilization in the number of people experiencing homelessness.

Bishop said the rise in homelessness appears to be slowing down, but it is still too early to say for sure.