A former motel in Fredericton has started taking in homeless people as an overnight shelter, and is expected to continue doing so going into the winter months.
The John Howard Society has opened the doors of the City Motel on Regent Street to accommodate between 26 and 28 guests for overnight stays, said Joan Kingston, chair of the Community Action Group on Homelessness.
Kingston said clients who turn to the motel are put in rooms shared with one other client, and each room has its own bathroom.
"They also have a, you know, a common space that is also, you know, the way it was when the City Motel was open. But it's a better common space and allows for, you know, kind of more adherence to COVID rules than what we were ever able to do."
CBC News contacted the John Howard Society for further information about the status of the project, but did not receive a response before deadline.
In late 2019, the John Howard Society purchased a large home on Brunswick Street and transformed it into an overnight homeless shelter for that winter.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the operations were moved to Fredericton High School to allow staff, volunteers and clients to practise physical distancing.
In late 2020, the John Howard Society revealed it planned to purchase the City Motel to turn it into a mix of drop-in shelter beds and supported living units.
In March, the City of Fredericton agreed to contribute $900,000 to the project, which includes the creation of 20 affordable housing units, 12 peer-supported units and 24 emergency shelter beds at a total cost of $4 million.
The status of the project has remained unknown since, with few details being shared by the John Howard Society about whether the project was moving forward, or when it would officially open as a shelter.
Impact on tent camps remains uncertain
While the City Motel is set to give some people a place to get out of the cold this winter, it's unclear whether that means a handful of monitored tent camps will be taken down by the end of the year.
The sites, which include an area near Government House, have been equipped with garbage bins and portable bathrooms as part of a pilot project by the Fredericton Police Force.
When asked whether there was a planned end date for the project, police spokesperson Alycia Bartlett, in an email, said the force continues to work with partners and stakeholders to come up with a reasonable solution heading into the colder months.
Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers said she hopes the City Motel project, as well as a recently approved project to construct 96 tiny homes, will have some impact on the need for the tent camps.
"So we've been, we're trying to put a plan together," Rogers said.
"We're trying to figure out exactly how many individuals we're speaking of, how many beds will be made available through the City Motel, and through the shelter, and now through 12 Neighbours [Inc.] and figuring out how many people that leaves that we need to find space for."
This past summer, a tent camp in the Devon area drew criticism from residents living near it, with some complaining they've had to deal with trespassing, public intoxication and theft since the site opened in May.
Rogers said the plan was always to eventually take down the tent camps once other housing solutions became available.
"It was always with the understanding that this wasn't a long term solution. This was to get us to a point where we had the appropriate shelter for various needs."
Rogers said the City Motel shelter is expected to be officially operational by early November, and at least a few of the tiny home developments are expected to be available by the end of the year.