Moncton shelter taking in more people released from hospital

Moncton shelter taking in more people released from hospital

A temporary emergency shelter in Moncton is seeing an increase in the number of people released from the hospital with nowhere else to go, a co-ordinator for the facility says.

The House of Nazareth's Joe Leger explained that the release of people who have been receiving psychiatric care is "tricky," as those individuals need to find group, special care or peer-supported housing, and that takes time.

"We have a number of people trying to access a finite amount of resources," Leger said Wednesday on CBC's Information Morning Moncton.

The Greater Moncton Homeless Steering Committee stated Tuesday there was a seven per cent decrease in shelter use in Moncton in 2016. The group's tenth annual report card on homelessness will be available April 3 on its website.

Leger corroborated those findings on Wednesday.

Length of stay increasing

"We're seeing the numbers static, but they are decreasing, but we do see the length of stay slightly increasing and that can be attributed to a number of factors," he said. "We see a slight elevation in seniors that are using the shelter."

Often, people that use shelters have addiction and mental health issues, he said.

"So, we're seeing an increase in those people being released sort of from the care of hospital into the shelter."

Given the lack of resources, these people are increasingly staying longer than what the House of Nazareth has prepared for in its mandate, he said.

"So the challenge becomes trying to find a more permanent solution with the proper support for people that have been released — for example, from the hospital," Leger said.

Hospital workers are hardworking and lovely people, he said, but releasing people who have no place to go "does create a challenge for us on the frontline."

Housing First model

The co-ordinator said the Housing First model, which attempts to move homeless people into independent and permanent housing quickly and then provide additional supports, is "absolutely" helpful, adding that it has achieved success across the country.

Unlike more traditional homelessness strategies, which prioritize health care, this model — as its name suggests — starts instead with housing.

"Once they're stable, we build the supports around that," Leger said, noting that the program has achieved success in a handful of Canadian cities and is now moving into Moncton. "I think those are the type of solutions that we have to look for and are working."

As provincial and federal government initiatives shift toward skills-based programs and programs that prioritize housing, "We are definitely going to see a decrease in homelessness."

Finding affordable housing

Explaining the difficulty of finding affordable housing in Moncton, Leger pointed again to a finite number of resources.

"As we deal with homelessness and areas and places where they can go and be housed on a more permanent basis, it is difficult," he said.

The House of Nazareth hopes that, as it enters "more sustainable" partnerships in Moncton, the shelter will see a greater number of rooms and apartments open for its clients.

Having reached out to the provincial government and the private sector, Leger said "they're all coming together" and that the response has been encouraging.

Meanwhile, due to an increase in public awareness and a positive change in perceptions of mental health issues, the already-generous community has become "extremely helpful" as it relates to the shelter's finances, volunteer needs and goals.