Concern grows for Fredericton's rough sleepers in freezing temps

·2 min read

A bitter cold snap has raised concern about dozens of homeless people in Fredericton sleeping rough. Luke Randall, who owns Endeavours Art on Queen Street, said he has witnessed five people sleeping on the same block of the street in the past two weeks.

"I had such a hard time even coming to work yesterday," he said. "So once I got here… I was like, I've got to do something more."

Randall posted on Facebook some of the needs of one man who sleeps near his store. Among them: blankets, clothes, soup and mint tea.

Though several people passed by and dropped things into the man's shopping cart, Randall said he's hoping for a longer-term solution.

"The goal was to find a partner who perhaps would be able to provide better solutions during the coldest of nights," he said.

A Go-Fund Me campaign was quickly set up and donations are going to the John Howard Society to fund overnight stays at the City Motel for people who can't, for whatever reason, go to a shelter.

Randall said the response has been overwhelming.

"I think people just don't realize when they see people panhandling that they're out there all night and some individuals cannot use the shelter for whatever reason. Everyone has a backstory."

Joe McDonald
Joe McDonald

The pandemic has complicated services at many of the emergency shelters.

St. Paul's United Church has stopped operating its overflow shelter.

And neither the Out of The Cold Shelter on Brunswick Street nor the Fredericton Homeless Shelters are able to run at full capacity.

Because of efforts made to maximize space and keep as many beds as possible, most of the recreational space in the shelter has been lost.

Shane Fowler/CBC
Shane Fowler/CBC

According to the By Name List, an effort administered by the Fredericton Homeless Shelters to track homelessness in the city, there are about 110 people in the city who are homeless, and about 40 of these are sleeping rough.

Warren Maddox, executive director of the Fredericton Shelters, estimates there are about 15 per cent more people suffering homelessness this year than last.

"Part of that is that there were a couple of significant closures of buildings that were in and around downtown Fredericton, which had an impact on some long-term housing," said Maddox.

Some of the people living in those buildings are now staying at the Fredericton Shelter, said Maddox.