Group looks to give unhoused people in Saint John a home for the holidays

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WATCH: Housing for the holidays in Saint John – Nov 27, 2021

A Saint John-based social service group is aiming to give about 30 per cent of the city’s documented unhoused population a home for the holidays.

Launching the In From the Cold campaign, the Saint John Human Development Council is hoping to get 30 people into subsidized housing by Christmas Day, which will in turn open shelter space to give people a safe and warm place to sleep.

Cathy Foote, the organization’s affordable housing specialist, tells Global News they know of about 100 unhoused people in the city.

Sixty-nine of those, she says, are classified as chronically homeless.

“What that means is that they have more mental health challenging conditions that make it more difficult to stay in housing,” she says.

She says they’re working with property owners and other like-minded organizations to accomplish their goal, saying 30 felt like a “manageable number.”

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Foote says the COVID-19 pandemic has had an undeniable impact on the visibility of homelessness in Saint John, but that the numbers tracked by the council are actually trending downwards.

“We’re seeing more people sleeping in rough conditions,” she says, “but we do know through our systems that we were able to house 100 people over the past year or so.”

Data in Fredericton paints a comparable picture, with roughly 100 people living unhoused in the capital, according to the Rising Tide Community Initiative.

Moncton’s Poverty and Social Inclusion Committee estimates there are 200 there.

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Foote says the council moves an average of five people a month into housing where they’re expected to pay 30 per cent of their income in rent.

She says the new tenants are also matched with mental health and/or addictions services as needed.

“We house them first and then they can work on those things. If they decide to stay in the unit, that’s great and we’ll continue to provide support and check-ins with them,” says Foote.

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“But if they decide to move on and change locations or do something else, that’s great too.”

About a week since launching the campaign, Foote says they’ve already made enough arrangements to reach two-thirds of their goal.

She encourages anyone in need of help who may be interested to inquire at local shelters, or directly with the Saint John Human Development Council.

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