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Man who was recently homeless in Fredericton builds trust with those still 'living rough'
FREDERICTON -- A Fredericton man who was recently homeless himself has now been hired to reach out to those on the streets and connect them to services they may not know about.
Tim McKnight believes there are several hundred residents in the city without a permanent place to call home.
When McKnight was living on the street, he says there were three causes: an addiction, his mental health, and poverty.
"The rooming house I was living in burned to the ground and I just couldn't get back on my feet," said McKnight, a mental health peer support worker in Fredericton. "It took a lot of support, because the vacancy rate's low in Fredericton. Things have gotten really expensive, and I just was not able to get back on my feet alone."
McKnight says it was only when he accepted help that he was able to begin his recovery.
Now, he's been hired to connect with those who are "living rough" today and drawing on his own experience to help build trust.
"I see the need going up, and it's like an iceberg," McKnight said. "The homeless part of it, you only see the tip; three-quarters of it's under the water."
Staff at Fredericton's downtown community health centre say over 40 people use the centre's address as their own, otherwise, they wouldn't have a spot to receive their social assistance.
"I think among people that are homeless, particularly that 15 per cent that are chronically and episodically homeless, many of them face challenges of mental illness and addiction," said Joan Kingston, the nurse manager at the Fredericton Downtown Community Health Centre.
Fredericton police say the number of calls from people needing mental health assistance has almost tripled year-over-year.
McKnight was hired by the John Howard Society, in part because of a $20,000 grant from the "Bell Let's Talk" initiative.
"We've known for a long time that without proper mental health support services, addiction services, it's going to continue to get worse," said John Barrow of the John Howard Society of Fredericton.
Barrow is now McKnight's boss, and says the funding will keep him employed for at least six to eight months of this year. After that, it's back to applying for more grants.
"Cause it's the only way through," Barrow said. "If you don't have supports on the street level, the problem just get worse."
McKnight believes those who are homeless or couch surfing in the city are in the hundreds, and he's hoping his story will help those people believe things can get better.