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Homeless staying longer at St. George Street shelter and warming centre

By Tara Clow Mar 20, 2024 | 1:17 PM

The Bridge To Home Shelter on St. George Street will officially close its doors on April 30.

It has been operated by the John Howard Society and YMCA Reconnect since November 2023 and officially opened its doors on December 1.

It provided an Out of the Cold Shelter with 60 beds, showers, laundry service and snacks.

A Warming Centre, called ‘The Hub’ was also available on-site at the former Lions Centre, providing an outreach centre, drop-in Centre, and a place to pick up government cheques.

Spokesperson Joanne Murray provided a quarterly update about the Centre to Moncton City Council this week.

She says they have noticed an increase in the length of stay, “We are doing a deep analysis of those long-term stayers, looking at creating surveys. We hear a lot of anecdotal things and we really want to ask people themselves, not the staff of the centre.”

Murray adds, that there is cart storage on site, and that seems to be creating some increased vandalism at the centre.

She also stated that the number of people using the shelters is up and the population is becoming more and more unwell.

“This is due to the kind of drugs they’re using, the lack of mental health interventions and the harshness of living outside for so long,” Murray adds.

She says there were a few good outcomes, with 14 people diverted to other places including housing, detox, a transfer to a special care home or who have returned home.

She says there have also been a lot fewer complaints from neighbours of the shelter, and there is increased communication with others around them.

In 2023, officials from Peter McKee Community Centre, which is located next door, complained of fear from their clients due to drug use and overdoses.

This type of shelter and centre is a new concept for New Brunswick and the John Howard Society.

When asked about services that will be provided for the summer, Murray says there is a plan for extreme weather.

“The plan in the heat calls for deployment of misting tents, one would be in the parking lot of the Hub.  There is no way you could open and restaff for a week in the summer.  It would be hard to open the doors and have 60 beds reopen.  It would probably be a warming centre with activities as opposed to a sleeping or mat program.  If we were looking at a ten-day heat wave, we would look at it at that time.”

Councillor Charles Leger also inquired why it’s not part of an ongoing annual running program, “If we’re looking at a drop-in centre as very useful, It should be something that would be more permanent.  Why don’t we have a more permanent approach? I’m trying to understand the rationale.”

Murray says the out-of-the-cold shelters are permanent, but they are not the best practice, “People were leaving the permanent shelters and went to stay at St. George Street because it’s just a funner place to be with fewer rules.  It doesn’t make economic sense to fund out-of-the-cold shelters in that way.”

Leger also asked that a conversation be held to look at the appearance around the centre to make it more inviting,  with things like decorative fencing and shrubs.

“I believe we need to be a partner in this.  As an Operator, I believe the province has stepped up and I think we can collectively find more solutions.  I look forward to getting better and better at this,” Leger adds.