‘Unacceptable’: N.B. man finds 2 homeless people sleeping on his back step

Click to play video: 'Moncton business owner voices concern about city’s homelessness crisis'
Moncton business owner voices concern about city’s homelessness crisis
A Moncton business owner has penned an open letter to the city expressing frustration about the worsening homelessness situation. This, after his employee found two people sleeping on his back patio. Suzanne Lapointe reports. – Oct 6, 2023

A small business owner in Moncton is voicing his concerns about the city’s response to increasing homelessness after he was alarmed to find two strangers sleeping on his back step Tuesday morning.

Shawn Arseneault, who has been running a small engineering firm out of his home on the east end of downtown Moncton for about two years, said he was initially notified by his office manager before phoning the police.

He said he was out of the residence, but phoned the RCMP immediately upon being alerted.

“Essentially, the RCMP members simply woke them up … they seemed to know them quite well, and basically they pushed them back to the streets and then left,” he said.

“Here we are, using resources paying for people to essentially just push the problem back to the street and they’re likely to go to the next-door neighbour to do the same.”

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Arsenault said he’d like to see more accountability from elected officials. Suzanne Lapointe

Arseneault said he understands the individuals who broke into his property likely weren’t violent or dangerous, but added some items left behind could’ve been hazardous if they ended up in the possession of his daughter.

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“They had a little handheld torch … a few different items, I just found something that looked like it might be drugs,” he said.

“One of the things is, you never know if it’s going to be the one time that you encounter somebody that’s going to be violent, intoxicated … but even just the fact that they leave things around that could pose a danger to my daughter. I find that extremely unacceptable.”

Following the incident, Arseneault decided to pen an open letter on Facebook to Moncton mayor Dawn Arnold and other elected officials responsible for overseeing the issue worsening throughout the area which was met with hundreds of reactions online.

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“I am sick of applauding temporary measures, I am sick of band-aid solutions, I am sick of hiding the issue,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

“I understand these are humans in need, but it’s getting harder to be empathetic and I am now consciously choosing to value the safety of my staff and family over my empathy at this point.”

He said his stream-of-consciousness letter stemmed from a place of building frustration after dealing with some previously similar incidents.

“There’s a lot of people that sympathize and there’s a lot of people that are telling me they have the same frustrations because they’re scared for their security. They also seem frustrated with the lack of progress fixing this problem,” he said, adding that he’d like to see more accountability from government officials both municipally and provincially.

One of those concerned residents is Lisa Gautreau, Arsenault’s next-door neighbour who moved back to Moncton from Montreal two years ago. She says she doesn’t allow her nieces to play outside alone as she fears for their safety.

“I grew up in Moncton, it was a city back then where you could leave your door unlocked at night. It’s not like that now,” she said.

Gautreau said if she had known about the widespread issue prior to coming back, she likely wouldn’t have purchased a home in downtown Moncton.

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Following making the post, which included several screenshots of the incident from his building’s security camera, Arsenault said Arnold reached out to him, leading to a conversation about the city’s ongoing response to the housing crisis and rise in homelessness.

“She’s telling me about the efforts that are being done … I am also taking the opportunity to educate myself,” he said. “But we’re exchanging ideas and she’s showing a willingness to communicate with me and discuss what my ideas are.”

Arsenault said he’s talked about the concept of a “housing-first approach” with the mayor, where people experiencing homelessness are provided with housing first, regardless of their employment situation, to allow for a more secure living environment as they work to get back onto their feet.

Global News reached out to the City of Moncton and didn’t receive a comment in time for publication.

“I find it extremely difficult to hear the provincial government bragging about a billion-dollar surplus when we have a health-care system, an education system, a judicial system, and a social services system that it’s in really bad shape,” he said, suggesting that the mayor should be more public about what responses are being brought forth in Moncton.

with files from Suzanne Lapointe

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