N.B. man who opened his doors to the homeless told he’s violating town’s bylaws
A Saint-Antoine, N.B., man who allowed three people without homes to stay in his garage says he’s disappointed they’ve been forced to leave due to a bylaw controversy.
“I was just doing it from the heart. .. helping them out,” says Serge Parent. “That’s something that was taught to me by my family. It’s just how we are; you help out your brothers and sisters.”
“We were seeing progress, they were doing a lot better. I could see their glow in the eyes,” he says. “It’s like they were coming alive again.”
But the makeshift shelter with a fridge, fire place food and beds isn’t allowed, according to the village.
“We did some checking with the commissions and they confirmed the rules that we had, and it applies everywhere in the Province of New Brunswick,” says Saint-Antoine Mayor Ricky Gautreau in a phone interview. “The rules are that you can’t have two dwellings on one piece of land.”
The commission says two notices were provided to Parent, but they were unable to confirm that he received the first. He says he saw one on Dec. 20, 2018.
“I was crying in the car listening to Bob Dylan, and she was crying as well,” he says. “We were all just remembering how we had met the first day.”
“We had a lot of complaints here at the village that we were having people living in a garage and that it wasn’t safe for them,” he says. “The people in the area were not happy that with what was being done.”
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One of those taking shelter left in November, but the other two remained. Parent says he had no idea he was in the wrong; he was simply trying to help out.
“What they told me what helped them the most was caring for them and listening to them … I was going to see them every morning.”
And while he understands that some people may not have been pleased, he wanted to thank those who supported them.
“We had people from the community, lots of help from the community that came in to give some food – even home-cooked food like lasagna,” he says. “Someone came in and taught us how to make bread.”
Parent says the experience has brought to light an important issue.
“They’re also teaching us the extent or the impact of mental health.”
Parent was able to help the three get forms of identification, meaning they can apply for social assistance and hopefully access mental health services.
He says there’s been a bit of communication with the couple since they had to leave.
“It reassures me that they’re still OK and alive.”
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