David Coon – Fredericton South
Winter approaches, and those working to ease the hardship faced by people experiencing homelessness are feeling a little more hopeful this winter. Unlike previous winters, we may not be faced with the dire prospect of people sleeping out in the freezing cold. In years past, many of the agencies, organizations and individuals working with homeless people in our city scrambled to ensure that no one was left out in the freezing winter cold. The result was the establishment of temporary Out of the Cold (OTC) Shelters. It was always understood that these were temporary measures and other solutions were needed for the longer term.
This year, those long-term solutions will be here. Thanks in part to the City Motel Project, and to the 12 Neighbors Community project, there is hope that there will be enough shelter for those who have been sleeping rough. The City Motel Project is spearheaded by the John Howard Society, and the 12 Neighbours Community is led by Marcel LeBrun.
The City Motel Project is a model of what can happen when an entire community comes together to solve a problem. It is the result of years of preparation, collaboration and hard work by various agencies, made possible with the support of all three levels of government. The City Motel Project will provide small apartments and comprehensive services for those who are the greatest challenge to house, as well as hosting a more traditional homeless shelter.
After working hard to put the needed funding in place to renovate and convert the City Motel into apartments and a shelter, the John Howard Society ran into an unexpected snag when it failed to secure key federal funding. John Howard then looked to the Province and the City to fill the gap. The Province quickly stepped up, and following considerable public pressure, the City, under the former mayor and council, approved a contribution as well.
Not only does the City Motel project operate an emergency shelter, it provides supportive housing for those dealing with complex issues, such as mental illness and/or addictions. These root problems are often what leads people to become homeless in the first place, and keeps them homeless longer. With supportive housing, people who need to be closely monitored have a greater chance of remaining housed, avoiding eviction and recurrent homelessness. In total, 35 people will be served either with supportive housing or shelter beds, depending on their needs. Find out more about the John Howard Society’s many programs and services here: https://www.johnhowardfredericton.ca/programsandservices
Marcel LeBrun saw the problem of homelessness in his community, and like many Frederictonians, felt distressed and was compelled to help. While many of us respond by donating and volunteering, Marcel took a longer personal journey. He travelled the world, looking for solutions that have worked elsewhere. He found that the projects that worked best had three things in common: they focused on dignity, opportunity, and community through social enterprise. He made a personal commitment to bring these solutions to Fredericton and help solve the problem of homelessness here.
Marcel incorporated the 12 Neighbours Community project as a non-profit. He was in a position to contribute some of his own money to get the housing project underway, purchase land and fund the construction of the first 12 mini homes this year. Eventually there will be 96 mini homes on the site, centred around a social enterprise and community hub, where members learn skills, develop confidence and earn money.
If you would like to learn more about this inspiring project, or get involved as a resident or volunteer, you can find more information here: https://www.12neighbours.com/