FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government is investing $8 million over the next three years to better support emergency shelters and help reduce chronic homelessness. With this funding, the Social Development budget allotted to emergency shelters now exceeds $5 million annually, which is double the current amount.

“The impacts of the growing number of people who are confronted with homelessness are being felt everywhere in our province, more often in urban areas,” said Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard. “I am pleased to see the provincial government will provide more financial support to help the development of long-term, permanent solutions to end chronic homelessness. We particularly want to ensure emergency shelter funding will be equitable across the province.”

The increased operational funding for emergency shelters is meant to contribute to better outcomes for clients, such as identifying short-term supportive alternatives to shelters and helping clients to find stable housing. Funding will be based on services provided, such as the provision of meals and community space, the acuity level of residents and hours of operation. Shelters must also have plans in place to increase the number of beds available during extreme weather.

There are nine emergency shelters in the province, providing 274 beds. Occupancy rates in Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton averaged 86 per cent during the 2021-22 fiscal year. From Nov. 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022, occupancy rates were 66 per cent in Bathurst and 94 per cent in Miramichi.

“The social challenges facing this vulnerable population is the single most important issue that I, and council, have brought forward to the province,” said Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold. “With freezing weather approaching, time is of the essence. We must work together with other levels of government to ensure every Monctonian can seek shelter in emergency, temporary and long-term affordable housing, and have access to mental health services and supports around addiction. I have spoken at length with the mayors of Saint John and Fredericton, and they, too, share our concerns for their respective communities.”

As of Aug. 31, 519 people were known to be experiencing homelessness in Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton; of those, 392 were experiencing chronic homelessness, which is defined as having at least six months of homelessness in the past year or having recurrent cases of homelessness totalling at least 18 months over the past three years.

The funding is part of a three-year plan being developed by the Department of Social Development in collaboration with other government departments, including Health, Justice and Public Safety, and Environment and Local Government, as well as the Union of the Municipalities of New Brunswick and community partners. The plan will propose a multi-pronged approach to address chronic homelessness across the province.

Shephard said efforts to address homelessness have been constant over the years. In 2021-22, the government supported the expansion of bed capacity at Moncton and Fredericton shelters; the creation of Out-of-the-Cold Shelters in Moncton and Fredericton; and the creation of a new six-bed emergency shelter operated by Miramichi Youth House.

“Homelessness is a complex social problem requiring a holistic solution that wraps clinical and non-clinical supports around individuals while providing housing supports,” said Shephard. “Through multiple efforts, more than 800 at-risk homeless individuals have accessed and maintained affordable and stable housing in New Brunswick over the past three years.”