Number of people without a shelter bed surprises N.B. government minister

A day after a man with no fixed address was found dead outside Moncton City Hall, New Brunswick’s Liberal house speaker questioned government on its support of people who are homeless in the province.

“This is a government that is out of touch with reality and with New Brunswickers’ needs,” said Liberal house speaker Rob McKee during question period Wednesday morning.

“Bragging about a surplus, a $774 million surplus, but neglecting those who are in need like the homeless,” McKee said.

According to Dorothy Sheppard, minister for social development, 800 people who were homeless have been housed over the last three years.

“I just announced only a few short weeks ago that we have actually doubled the money for shelters,” said Sheppard.

“An extra $2 million this year and going over the next three years, and so I think money is not the issue. I think this will be about work with our strategic stakeholders on the ground,” she said.

Some of that money is going towards additional shelter beds.

“The work for planning for this should have been done back in the summer,” said David Coon, leader of the Green Party.

“It was clear, the explosion in homelessness that was occurring in the province was self-evident in the summer, from St. Stephen to Caraquet you’ve got people reported for the first time living outdoors,” Coon said.

Outreach workers in Moncton say the city has 556 people currently living on the streets without a shelter bed.

“That number was actually a surprise to us,” Sheppard said.

“It was presented to city council. So we’re trying very hard to rationalize that number and I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m saying that’s not a number that we’ve been working with. We were working with about 224,” she said.

But the opposition says government needs to be building supportive housing to deal with mental health and addictions.

“The shelters are experiencing a huge strain,” said Susan Holt, Liberal Party leader.

“The needs of the shelter and the needs of the population are changing. And so we need to give shelters the tools to support the needs of the people who are coming through their doors every day,” Holt said.

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