Executive director of Moncton's largest homeless shelter steps down

·4 min read

Jean Dubé, executive director of House of Nazareth, is stepping down after two years running Moncton's largest homeless shelter.

Dubé has run the organization since the new building on Albert Street was bought and renovated in 2019, but he leaves with many promises unfulfilled.

"There comes a time in life when you have to have to step back and take a look at what you've done, what needs to be done and when it's time to pass the torch," he said.

Plans for the 105 bed were grandiose from the start.

Dubé claimed things would be done "differently" and "we're going to find solutions, we're going to put an end to homelessness."

Dubé said services for mental health and addiction would be offered at the facility, but those didn't materialize.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

Moncton city councillor Bryan Butler said the shelter failed to meet the expectations Dubé set up at council.

"You got to help them, it's got to be a recovery and I thought that's what we were getting," he said.

"And I didn't feel that it was."

The House of Nazareth received $25 thousand from the city over three years ending in 2021. Butler said the facility also costs the city money in other ways.

According to Butler, police and emergency services are called to the building almost everyday.

"We have the Humanity Project, we have the Harvest House, the police are not getting the calls every day to there," said Butler.

"So, you know, there's something lacking."

Butler said if the shelter was better staffed, issues could be "handled from within."

And Dubé is the first to admit, keeping staff has been a problem especially since the COVID pandemic began.

He said he lost about half his staff after the pandemic shut downs started, and at $15 an hour, he said wages are too low for the work his employees have to do.

"I think these people deserve a lot more," said Dubé.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

"There's always something going on, we seized handguns that were loaded, knives, shanks, drugs, alcohol."

Dubé said there have been nights when two staff were responsible for 85 people in the shelter, which can lead to chaos.

He said in one month, people staying at the shelter did $15,000 in damage to the building.

"Somebody ran through a wall," said Dubé, adding that major damage has been done to the washrooms.

The chaos inside the building has spilled outside, according to neighbours.

Michael Mann is president of Maritime Door and Window, which he estimates is about 300 metres from the shelter.

"We've had rather a marked increase in theft, vandalism (and) drug paraphernalia on site," he said.

He said the problems started before the shelter even opened.

Dube told the CBC in May, 2019 that he contacted nearby businesses to let them know about plans for the shelter.

At the time he said, "if you walk down the street when we're fully operational, you won't even know there's a shelter here," Dubé said. "That's guaranteed."

Michael Mann
Michael Mann

Mann claims he's never heard from Dubé, and that he and a neighbourhood group formed specifically to deal with problems related to the shelter have tried to speak to Dubé via email and over the phone but he's never responded.

Mann hopes the next executive director will be more open to working together and will provide the services so obviously needed at the shelter for homeless people.

"And as far as the execution of how it's been operating for the last two years, it is hardly a model for any facility of that sort, in my opinion," said Mann.

Dubé agrees that whoever takes over for him should contact local businesses, and should set up wrap around services for people needing help.

"So we still have a lot of work to do, we've come a long way, but I'm very confident that in the years to come that we'll do some great things for the homeless people in the Greater Moncton Area," said Dubé.

He said the House of Nazareth board of directors will choose his successor. Dubé plans to leave by the end of June.