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Saint John university students gather data on Port City social, health issues

UNB project hopes to learn about what the people of Saint John need to combat poverty
WATCH: A research project that's aiming to learn more about people's social and health needs in Saint John has led to pleasantly surprising and sobering results.

A research project at UNB Saint John aiming to learn more about people’s social and health needs in the Port City has led to both pleasantly surprising and sobering results.

It’s part of a seminar course for fourth year sociology students. Several spent time with various community agencies to gather data and then pass along the results.

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The Romero House soup kitchen was one of the agencies involved there’s a need to reach out to people that maybe don’t share the same vulnerabilities.

“What that will do is first of all showing more empathy to these populations, helps them gain a better…impression of themselves which gives them the ability to more likely receive,” said Emily Forte, one of the UNB Saint John students.

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There was some reinforcement for those who work at Romero House every day.

“I was really glad to hear that meeting people one on one as where they’re at is something that’s very important to effectively change someone’s life which we do every day,” said executive director Evelyn McNulty.

At the same time, they say it’s an opportunity to learn where they can improve.

“I can do better with treating people with addictions,” McNulty added. “I know sometimes they can be the most difficult of all the people who come for help.”

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Students working the “Avenue B” harm reduction organization were pleased by a survey showing more than 70 per cent support for a supervised consumption site in Saint John.

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“It’s something that’s desperately needed,” said student Madison Hartos.

“You’ve seen all the Facebook posts about the disposed needles around the city… It’s something that could prevent both needles from ending up in the community and also the spread of communicable diseases as well as the cost of health care going down.”

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Other organizations involved included the New Brunswick Association of Community Living, The Saint John Free Public Library and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Saint John.

The plan is for the data collected by the students to be further edited and passed on to the University of New Brunswick and to the agencies involved for their continued use and benefit.