Homeless Fredericton woman loses her tent and belongings during site cleanup

·4 min read

A woman who is homeless in Fredericton says she has lost all of her meagre belongings after leaving her tent unattended for a few hours this week.

Melissa Nason has been staying "here, there and everywhere," around the city since the fall of 2019.

Earlier this week, she was tenting near Wilmot United Church.

"I felt safe there," said Nason.

But a man came by Tuesday, she said, and told her to move.

Tuesday night she relocated to a sheltered spot under a cedar tree between the lighthouse and the nearby Lemont House.

She left "for a very short period of time" on Wednesday afternoon.

"I had to go panhandle," Nason said.

When she returned at about 5 or 6 p.m., the tree she'd been camping under had been trimmed of its lower branches and all of her things were gone.

Joanne Barlow/Facebook
Joanne Barlow/Facebook

"So now I have no bicycle, no blankets, no food and no tent," Nason said on Thursday.

"I just cried — the only transportation I had, all my clothes. I had a few of my kids pictures in there. And they're gone. And there's nothing I can do to get it back."

Nason had been planning to heat up some soup on her propane stove and relax. She ended up walking around in the freezing rain until she ran into a friend who offered to share his tent for the night.

They pitched it behind the community health centre on King Street, and were promptly told the next day they'd have to move from there, as well.

"Getting up and moving around constantly is too much," said Nason.

"I've got a bad hip and right now it's aching bad from sleeping on the cold."

The manager of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, whose parent company Aquilini owns the property by the lighthouse, says hotel staff removed Nason's tent and cleaned up the site working in conjunction with city police.

The city said it was not involved in removing this tent. Officers normally give people a day or two to remove their things, said Wayne Knorr, communications manager for the city.

The hotel dumpster was emptied Friday morning, but Crowne Plaza manager Trevor Morgan said Nason's bicycle was still at the hotel and she could come get it back.

Jennifer Sweet/CBC
Jennifer Sweet/CBC

Morgan said the hotel was "trying to be good corporate citizens" by keeping the property tidy.

He said they're in talks with the city and other parties about possibly refurbishing the run-down Lemont building.

Nason said many of her things had been donated to her by various people in the community and AIDS New Brunswick.

Joanne Barlow delivered Nason another coat, boots and a sleeping bag on Thursday.

Barlow said she does what she can to help people directly.

"I collect donations — not money donations, but hats, mittens, scarves, masks."

Barlow said she got to know many of Fredericton's homeless people when she volunteered last winter at the overflow warming centre at St. Paul's United Church.

That service is not running this year because of the pandemic.

Barlow said people have been contacting her about their needs and she tries to collect the items and drop them off near AIDS New Brunswick on King Street or the Phoenix daytime drop-in centre on Woodstock Road.

Ed Hunter/CBC
Ed Hunter/CBC

There are "way more" people sleeping outside in the city than there were last year, said Barlow. The estimate last month was about 40 people.

Nason said the out-of-the-cold shelter is "booked solid full all the time." And there are personal reasons why some people don't want to be there.

"We're hoping to find some place we can pitch a tent permanently or get into a hotel or just get shelter somewhere," she said.

Barlow said she has several volunteers willing to staff an overnight overflow shelter, including a nurse and personal support workers. They just need a venue.

She is reaching out to area churches, but so far no spaces have been offered.

Barlow is currently accepting donations of tarps, heavy sleeping bags, Tim Hortons gift cards, blankets, coats, hats, mittens and toiletries. She said people can reach her via Facebook.