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New Moncton non-profit seeks funding to provide affordable housing, fight homelessness

Dale Hicks (centre) and Debbie McGinnis (left), representing Rising Tide Community Initiatives Inc., a new non-profit, and Vincent Merola (right) a community development officer with the City of Moncton.
Dale Hicks (centre) and Debbie McGinnis (left), representing Rising Tide Community Initiatives Inc., a new non-profit, and Vincent Merola (right) a community development officer with the City of Moncton. Callum Smith / Global News

A new non-profit group in Moncton is hoping to put an end to the city’s homelessness problem.

Rising Tide Community Initiatives Inc., a housing entity formed in response to Moncton’s 2019 Community Implementation Plan for Affordable Housing, presented its business plan and funding model to councillors Tuesday evening.

“We can’t keep doing things this way,” said Vincent Merola, a community development officer with the City of Moncton.

“The longer a person is in homelessness, the more trauma they experience and the longer it takes to get out.”

READ MORE: New Brunswick wait list for affordable housing grows by more than 800 in six months

The non-profit is seeking a total of $12 million over three years, with $2 million coming from both the city and the province on an annual basis.

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“We think that it’s up to levels of government to finally stop talking about it, stop pointing fingers, [and] start doing something,” said Dale Hicks, a founding board member of Rising Tide and president of Food Depot Alimentaire.
“I [don’t] think the community as a whole cares whose jurisdiction it is, they just want the problem fixed.”
Dale Hicks, a founding board member of Rising Tide and president of Food Depot Alimentaire, speaks to reporters after presenting to Moncton city councillors Tuesday
Dale Hicks, a founding board member of Rising Tide and president of Food Depot Alimentaire, speaks to reporters after presenting to Moncton city councillors Tuesday. Callum Smith / Global News

When asked where the municipal money would come from, Mayor Dawn Arnold told reporters “That’s a great question… Where will we cut? Or will we raise taxes?”

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She did say the business plan is contingent on the requested provincial funding getting approval.

But Arnold was also quick to point out the magnitude of the issue if the status quo continues.

UNB nursing students attempting to care for the feet of the province’s homeless
UNB nursing students attempting to care for the feet of the province’s homeless
“I’ve certainly heard from the citizens of Moncton that this is a very big concern. The chamber of commerce has done their questionnaire to the business community, [and homelessness] came out as the number one concern,” she said.

“We know that there are so many big costs when people don’t have a safe roof over their heads.”

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The business plan submitted to the city says Rising Tide, which is made up from several agencies including the John Howard Society of Southeastern New Brunswick and United Way of Greater Moncton and Southeastern New Brunswick, will essentially purchase affordable housing properties or abandoned houses and possibly vacant land.

Rising Tide says that money during the pilot phase could provide 125 affordable units and hire eight case managers to keep people successfully housed.

Derelict or abandoned buildings could be purchased and renovated by Rising Tide and rented as affordable units
Derelict or abandoned buildings could be purchased and renovated by Rising Tide and rented as affordable units. Callum Smith / Global News

“A lot of the case management is making sure that individuals are safe and secure where they are, they’re where they need to be when they’re supposed to be, doctors appointments, medical appointments, counselling appointments,” Hicks says.

“Keeping people on track, being there in case there’s any sort of issue where there’s a number to call and someone is going to answer the phone at 2 o’clock in the morning.”

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Hicks says if they get the funding secured from the municipality and the province, it would start out by purchasing one building and make sure things go smoothly before purchasing another building or property.

The buildings or properties would be spread across the city and some units within the buildings would be rented at full cost or market rent, while others would be affordable units, meaning they’d be subsidized to cost no more than 30 per cent of someone’s income.

Within the city, 176 people are currently homeless, 138 of them chronically so, according to numbers from the city’s Housing Assessment Review Team (HART).

“People [are] loitering on High Street and St. George with no place else to go, tent cities proliferating all over the city, [people] sleeping in ATM vestibules and in doorways in our downtown,” Merola said. “Costs to emergency services keep going up, hospitals, police, addictions, courts.”

As for implications from a potential spring provincial election, or as a result of upcoming municipal elections in May, Arnold said, “we’ll see.”

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“Doing nothing is not an option,” she said.

Dawn Arnold, Moncton’s mayor, says doing nothing with the homelessness issue in the city is “not an option”
Dawn Arnold, Moncton’s mayor, says doing nothing with the homelessness issue in the city is “not an option”. Callum Smith / Global News

City staff are to meet with provincial representatives and report back to councillors March 16.