Some Moncton business owners say they feel powerless in dealing with what they call a chronic problem of drug abuse and homelessness in the city’s downtown.
“They do sometimes give off threatening-type behaviour and quite often they are on drugs and alcohol,” said Stephen Gallant, who owns the Third Glass bar and other properties along Main Street.
But some people who are homeless, like Tonya Wright, say they are feeling helpless.
“There is no help and it’s like you are already at rock bottom so screw it how much further can you fall.”
Wright, who said she has been drug-free for a month, says she is trying to break the cycle of homelessness while staying at the Harvest House Atlantic shelter.
But she says it’s hard not to turn to drugs when you can’t afford a roof over your head.
“I have seen everything from $600 to $1,200 and with not working right now with the COVID right now you can’t get by. Assistance for a single person is less than $600,” she said.
A lack of affordable housing and addiction and mental health supports continue to be the main reasons more people are living on the streets says Trevor Goodwin with YMCA ReConnect, a street intervention program.
“If they don’t have an affordable and sustainable place for them to lay their head at night that has wrap-around services and is comfortable, how can anyone work on their own mental health or their own addiction issues?” said Goodwin.
In response to complaints from business owners, Moncton’s fire chief, Conrad Landry, said the city has hired private security guards who are patrolling Main Street 24/7. He also said the city is considering adding CCTV security cameras to monitor the downtown.
“Our priority is for the safety of the residents and also of the vulnerable population. Being homeless is not a crime,” said Landry.
He said he knows security is a short-term solution and is also looking into why more people are not using the local shelters. Landry added that funding housing for the homeless needs to be a priority for all politicians.
Goodwin says beefing up security is not an effective long-term solution and what people need is the housing stability and support to foster change.
“It’s a short-term immediate solution for the businesses because they may feel safer or they may feel that their idea of justice is being served,” he said.
“But at the end of day the cat comes back because we have not addressed any of the root causes.”