Fredericton police to slowly dismantle homeless tent sites after propane heater fires
Fredericton, N.B.'s chief of police says the force has no choice but to dismantle homeless camps in the city, after they say two fires were sparked by propane heaters inside the tents.
Police say one fire occurred Tuesday evening at a site on the city’s south side, the other on Wednesday night on the north side.
Chief Roger Brown said they were caused by propane heaters, and in one situation, the wind spread the fire destroying three tents and several people’s belongings.
While no one was hurt, Brown said the force needs to find other options to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
“We have resources in place to deal with their belongings. Some of them have pets that were initially an issue that we’ve gotten resolved,” he said in an interview with CTV Atlantic. “So, I don’t think this is going to turn in any shape or form, into a standoff that we’ve seen in some places.”
Brown said so far, individuals who have been offered different shelter options have accepted them.
He also said shelter capacity is available across the city – something Fredericton Homeless Shelters' executive director, Warren Maddox, confirmed.
Maddox operates a men and women’s shelter and recently opened an emergency overnight shelter for the winter months.
“We’ve been ready. We opened Jan. 4 with our overnight space. But we saw zero people. Jan. 5, zero. Jan. 6, two. So... they’re not coming in, but the capacity is there…It’s really frustrating for us,” he said.
Maddox says the shelters have two rules: no drug-use and no violence.
“Some of them, they're very well are some mental health issues or addiction issues that need to be dealt with. But they’re not being dealt with. They’re not being confronted in terms of dealing with a mental health issue or dealing with an addictions issue. So, it’s not helping anybody in terms of trying to get them to a better path, a more dignified path in life,” he said.
The city has an ongoing “by-name list” – an ever-changing record of those who do not have a home in Fredericton.
As of Thursday, there were 161 people on that list.
Advocates say their needs are complex.
“We have made strides in Fredericton,” said Joan Kingston, chair of the community action group on homelessness in the city. “The City Motel project, now known as the Oak Centre, has 34 individual units where people are living and being supported and that’s a wonderful thing, that’s a very big step in the right direction. But there’s still a gap in Fredericton and indeed in all of Canada, of supportive housing.”
She says that means ongoing clinical support for those battling a mental illness or an addiction, so that they can live on their own.
According to a Fredericton city council presentation during a meeting Thursday, there are currently 126 shelter and transitional housing spaces.
But council projects that will increase to 160 by the end of 2022, with the creation of 12 Neighbours – a tiny home community being built in the city.
- 92 shelter spaces
- 24 housing first units
- 44 proposed transitional homes
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