EDITOR’S NOTE: It was in the spring of 2018 that Faith McFarland, then the co-ordinator of the Community Action Group on Homelessness; and Mayor Mike O’Brien came to Christ Church Cathedral to present their plan to alleviate homelessness in Fredericton. Their main message that day to several parishes represented was this: churches often have excess land — and a desire to do good things with it. Could they step up and help fight homelessness in their community? From then on, Christ Church Cathedral has worked to meet that challenge.
Story by Ann Deveau
If all goes well, three homeless people will have roofs over their heads this summer in a three-unit townhouse owned by Christ Church Cathedral in Fredericton.
Penny Ericson, chair of the cathedral’s Outreach Committee, said the Cathedral’s project on Albert Street and a four-unit townhouse on Jaffrey Street, owned by Smythe Street Church, were approved at a recent meeting of the city’s planning advisory committee.
“No one spoke in opposition to the projects at the PAC meeting,” she was pleased to report. “Rezoning is required, and next steps are taking place at upcoming City Council meetings. I anticipate that it will be accepted because the City wishes the program to move forward, and the land that they are donating is not useful for them in any other way.”
The small houses fall under a concept called Housing First in which homeless people are provided with a place to live and support services. The goal is to make their lives healthier and more stable by removing the anxiety of chronic homelessness. One four-unit townhouse, operated by the John Howard Society, opened a few months ago on the north side.
“It’s taken a community effort to get these projects going, but fund-raising has gone well, building designs are in place, and it’s exciting to be moving ahead,” she said.
The land is hilly and will need to be graded in the spring before the three-unit townhouse can be placed on the plot. This work will be weather-dependent, but Bill Jones will have the three houses ready. The PAC was told construction should be finished by late summer.
“I plan to call a meeting for those at the cathedral interested in assisting with the houses and their tenants in February 2020,” Penny said. “I will keep everyone aware of the council’s decisions and any changes that occur. It has been a long wait, but it will all be worth it.”
According to the Community Action Group on Homelessness:
• Just $10 spent on housing and supports for the chronically homeless equals $21.72 in savings related to health, justice and emergency services.
• In Fredericton, with its chronic low vacancy rates and high rents, 7,720 households spend more than 30 per cent of income on housing and a frightening 3,525 household spend more than 50 per cent of income on housing.
• There is a 5.5 per cent apartment vacancy rate in Fredericton, and an average rent of $829 a month. In New Brunswick, single income assistance recipients receive about $540 a month.
• More information on homelessness is found at this link: roadhomefredericton.com
PHOTOS: A computer rendering of the triplex of tiny homes that will be built this year on Albert Street, near Regent, as well as a sample floor plan. Thanks goes to Jason LeJeune and Maple Leaf Homes for providing the images.