FREDERICTON, NB — There has been a steady rise in street homelessness in Fredericton and across the province. A growing number of people are at risk of injury, or worse, due to the dropping temperatures; as such, communities have been working to develop short-term solutions to address this crisis.
To help respond to the growing need, the Community Action Group on Homelessness (CAGH) has been working with local government, community groups and churches to establish an Out of the Cold (OOTC) Shelter.
The Out of the Cold model is a community-based, volunteer-supported model that provides low-barrier shelter for individuals to spend the night. Such shelters are not long-term solutions to homelessness but they do offer a safer alternative to people sleeping rough.
Through the collective efforts of a number of agencies and individuals, Fredericton’s Out of the Cold will open its door on Thursday night (November 29) to upwards of 20 individuals. The OOTC will be open nightly from 8:00 pm to 7:30 am for the next 20 weeks.
The location for the shelter has been generously provided by the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton which has temporarily extended use of Bishop’s Court at 791 Brunswick Street for this effort. Bishop's Court had been the traditional home of the presiding bishop until a few years ago.
"This is an important issue in the major cities of New Brunswick and something with which churches have to be involved," said the Rt. Rev. David Edwards, Bishop of Fredericton. "We are pleased to offer space that is currently empty. This will help meet a need that has been on our hearts and minds for awhile now."
Consistent staffing will be overseen by members of the Fredericton Downtown Community Health Centre who will work with and supervise volunteers on a nightly basis. To support this effort, the Coordinator of the Community Action Group on Homelessness, Faith McFarland, has put out a call to community for volunteers willing to assist with operations.
Volunteers will help to welcome guests, prepare light snacks, clean and fold laundry, interact with guests and provide general maintenance. Shifts will vary from 4 – 8 hours in length. Volunteers will need to commit to one shift at least every two weeks.
Those interested in applying to be a volunteer are encouraged to visit: https://www.roadhomefredericton.com/out-of-the-cold.html
McFarland also shared OOTC will be seeking donations of basic items; such as, underwear, socks, toiletries, laundry soap, snack goods, and cleaning supplies. A full list of donation items and drop off locations is available at the CAGH website at https://www.roadhomefredericton.com/out-of-the-cold.html
“I am not a fan of band-aid solutions to homelessness” shared McFarland, “but, with at least 35 known individuals currently sleeping outside, something must be done now. However, real sustainable solutions include evidence approaches like Housing First and Rapid-Rehousing services.
“As we work to make short term solutions, I hope we don’t lose sight of the real goal which is to end chronic homelessness and deep poverty.”