‘It’s going to save lives’: St. John’s, NB – Emergency shelter opens in New Brunswick
An emergency shelter has opened in St. John’s, NB, to accommodate the city’s growing homeless population as temperatures continue to drop.
Nick Sheppard, the Salvation Army’s outreach coordinator, said about 20 people used the shelters when they first opened on Monday.
“We anticipate that by the end of the week the weather will be a little cooler and filled with more word of mouth,” Sheppard said in an interview with Global News on Tuesday.
Located inside the closed Hilton Belia Arena on the west side of the city, the project has received funding from the provincial and municipal governments.
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Shepard said the maximum capacity is 40 people, increased from the original figure of 35 due to need. Each night a bus operated by the City of St. John will take people from the Salvation Army’s Prince Edward Street location to the arena.
“It can be a somewhat transformative experience when you’re literally tenting for weeks at a time – you’re not able to shower, not be able to shower yourself, not able to get a good night’s sleep “
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The number of homeless individuals in New Brunswick has increased rapidly over the past year. According to Manav Vikas Parishad, 133 people were facing the problem of homelessness in October.
However, Shepard believes the real figure is much higher because many people experiencing homelessness choose not to give their names.
Recently, Sheppard said there has been an influx of people who have never experienced homelessness before who are now in need of assistance.
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“Most of those individuals are people who have never experienced this before, and with the rising rent increases, and inflation and things like that, yeah, we’re dealing with a lot of first timers,” he said.
Looking at the bigger picture, Shepard said that while they have effectively doubled the number of shelter beds available in the city, they are still far from the number needed.
“It is going to save lives, quite frankly, in the winter, and we hope, however, that a more sustainable solution comes from this, more investment in subsidized housing or affordable housing.”
The shelter is expected to continue operating until the end of March. If the weather is bad, Shepard said they could possibly keep the doors open in April.
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