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

More support needed for homelessness: councillor

By Brad Perry Jan 9, 2024 | 12:15 PM

A Saint John councillor wants the province to do more to help those experiencing homelessness.

It follows a weekend tent encampment fire which claimed the life of 44-year-old Peter (Evan) McArthur.

“With this loss of life, I want to renew our call to the province to step up on housing,” Coun. David Hickey said during Monday’s meeting.

“Our neighbourhoods have become the front line of the housing crisis. There is no dignity in homelessness, either for the folks living in it or the neighbourhoods they occupy.”

Hickey said with hundreds of people living rough in Saint John and trying to stay warm, more fires will happen.

He noted that the city does not have the shelter capacity it needs to support everyone experiencing homelessness.

According to the Human Development Council, Saint John saw 234 people experiencing homelessness in December.

Hickey said the municipality is committed to working to end homelessness, adding council will continue to advocate and provide support where it can.

Council has taken steps of its own, such as working on a long-term strategy to address the city’s response to homelessness.

In December, council adopted a vision statement to be used as part of the creation of its Housing for All strategy.

“Every resident within the City of Saint John is entitled to a safe, supported, and sustainable home,” said part of the statement.

“In the spirit of the right to adequate housing articulated in the 1948 United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the City of Saint John wishes for its residents to live in security, peace, and dignity, regardless of the home’s permanence.

“The City of Saint John’s goal is to provide safe community spaces for access by all its residents, while supporting individuals as they access housing that meets their specific needs.”

In a year-end interview, Mayor Donna Reardon said she hopes money set to come from the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund will lead to more affordable housing in the city.

Council voted Dec. 18 to enter into a contribution agreement with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, but we will not know how much the city will get until CMHC makes the official announcement at a later date.

Saint John had applied for around $15 million to help build more than 1,200 new housing units over three years.

“The need is definitely there for Saint John,” said Reardon, who said the official announcement is expected in January.