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'I’ve never seen anything like this': Homeless farm community almost ready in rural N.B.

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At the end of a long country driveway a new beginning awaits for 21 individuals who need a fresh start in life.

Welcome to the farm located on a 187 acres of land in the rural community of Little River, New Brunswick.

Twenty-one tiny homes have been built for people who want to get off the streets and change how they live.

The project is the brainchild of homeless advocate Charlie Burrell and his family.

The founder of Moncton’s Humanity Project has a built a utopia for the city’s homeless population 30 minutes away from the drugs and crime of downtown.

Burrell started the project three years ago and was growing food to help feed the homeless and the working poor at the St. George Street location.

The Humanity Project ran the shelter next door last winter, but he wants something different for people living on the streets.

Burrell said he administered Narcan, an opioid overdose treatment, or CPR 87 times from Dec. 19 to June 30 last year.

“I know giving somebody CPR and Narcan on the side of the road saves them for five minutes, 10 minutes, five days, whatever it is, but this gives them an opportunity to really save them,” said Burrell.

Charlie Burrell stands outside a tiny home. (Derek Haggett/CTV Atlantic)

He has a vision and wants to help people, but who gets to come and who stays behind weighs heavy on his heart.

“Who we don’t think will survive this winter. They get a little more priority because they need the help and they’re more at risk of overdosing more frequently,” said Burrell.

That’s the hardest part for volunteer Vanessa Steeves too.

“They’re all in a tough situation and haven’t been able to find housing or a shelter so how do you choose? That’s probably the hardest thing we are finding is who de we bring first?” said Steeves.

The project has received funding from the City of Moncton, the province as well as private donations.

Addiction and mental health services will also be provided on site.

Each tiny home will have electricity, heat and air conditioning in the summer.

Burrell said it will be a safe place people can call their own.

“A lot of people that are out on the streets, it’s habitual. You’ve been out there for so long you’re just in the habit of surviving and here we want to give them a place to breathe and relax and realize they’re not in survival mode anymore. That they deserve better than that street corner on St. George Street.”

His first guest, or friend as Burrell likes to say, will be Jason Caldwell.

Originally from Saskatchewan, Caldwell stayed at Burrell’s shelter last year and said living on the streets was a real possibility for him, partly because of his alcohol addiction.

Now, he’s helping out with the farm project and could be moving in within a week.

Jason Caldwell will be the first resident of a tiny home in Little River, N.B. (Derek Haggett/CTV Atlantic)

“I’ve never seen anything like this with what they’ve developed and the program they’ve put together,” said Caldwell. “People are chomping at the bit already with the people I talked to around town about getting out here. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you’re part of something bigger.”

The Humanity Project was started by Burrell 10 years ago, and he’s dealt with detractors from time-to-time.

“I’ve never met a negative person that’s made any significant changes in our community. I don’t see them swinging a hammer or helping out,” said Burrell. “People can say what they want, but I know the difference this is going to make in people’s lives and not only people that are staying here, but their family’s lives. People are going to get kids back.”

The next stage of the farm project will see people move into an apartment-style dwelling and then a larger tiny home.

After 10 years of feeding and sheltering Moncton’s vulnerable population, Burrell is more determined than ever to make a change.

He knows life could have been different for him.

“I feel like if at a time in my life if I didn’t have the right support and the right people and my friends and my family around I’d be sleeping right there in a shelter besides the people I was sheltering. I would be standing in line beside the people I was feeding,” said Burrell. “The only difference is I was lucky to have the right supports and the right people around me when I needed it.”

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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