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Moncton’s business community on preventing homelessness: ‘We have to start today’


With about 200 people in attendance and ready for change, four organizations representing Greater Moncton’s business community made an urgent call for action Friday morning.

“A crisis to me is a situation when there’s a problem that isn’t being addressed, that’s growing exponentially and requires immediate action,” said Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce CEO John Wishart. “I think that’s where we’re at with homelessness and downtown crime right now in Greater Moncton.”

Through a press conference, Downtown Moncton Centre-ville Inc., The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton, 3+ Economic Development Corporation and Destination Moncton-Dieppe presented a five part plan to help address and solve the issues seen across the city:

  • The city of Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe direct the Codiac RCMP to direct the frequent property crimes, assaults and open-air drug use
  • Moncton and Government work together to ensure sufficient capacity at shelters to help present loitering, encampments and panhandling/squatting
  • Province implement a Mental Health and Addictions Court for the city with restorative justice and rehabilitation programs
  • Province invests in more sources for mental health and addiction recovery programs
  • Provincial and Federal government and the City of Moncton provide and maintain additional funding for affordable housing and wrap-around services for the vulnerable population

“I think you could walk down Main Street or St. George Street and you’d be hard pressed to not find a business that’s been touched by property crime or the existence of growing homelessness in our community and that shouldn’t be,” said Wishart. “We should have services for the people and we should be able to get them off the streets.”

The business community is asking for shared accountability across the board including from the city, the province, the federal government and the RCMP.

“We’ve heard from some downtown business owners who say they’ve lost customers because they aren’t comfortable coming downtown, especially after dark. Their staff is increasingly worried about walking to their car after dark and so they’ve hired walkers or security to get them to their car and then there’s the lost opportunity,” said Wishart.

Adding, “We’ve grown by two officers in 14 years, when the population of Greater Moncton has increased by 20,000. So that math just does not work and it’s not a wonder that we’re behind the eight ball in terms of law enforcement. We just don’t have enough coverage.”

The mayors from Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview were all in attendance, and all agreed it is going to take everyone working together to combat the issue.

“We know that this province has not invested in social housing since 1970, in any sort of significant way -- that’s 52 years ago,” said Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold. “It’s a miracle we’re not in a worse situation right now.”

Arnold says she is willing to meet with the province and business community on a weekly basis in order to take “tangible actions that are so desperately needed.”

Right now, the issue is focused on Moncton’s downtown area, but Dieppe Mayor Yvon Lapierre says it is starting to trickling into other areas as well.

“We have a responsibility as communities, but I think there’s also major responsibility from the province, and to me, that’s been the actor that’s been missing in this picture,” said Lapierre. “We’re all concerned about what’s happening in our three communities.”

New Brunswick’s Social Development Minister Dorothy Sheppard is expected to speak to reporters Friday afternoon.

“We want the province to hear from the region and not just the city of Moncton,” said Riverview Mayor Andrew LeBlanc. “It’s an important issue for everyone and this is a call for action, not just for the tri-community, not just for the business community, but as Mayor Lapierre said, the province as well, and it’s important that we have strength in that message and that’s only going to come from the three communities working together.”

For Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard, a lot of work has been done, but there’s still a long way to go.

“We’ve already said that we’re going to be investing an extra $8 million over three years, so we’re going to start there, and then over the next little while, see what we need,” said Shephard, adding it wouldn’t be fair for her to suggest an estimate “without understanding what’s really needed.”

Shephard says beginning next week, she will have a point person from the health sector and another in social development, with plans to “bring public safety in as we need them.”

“It’s obvious that where we really do have a gap is the lack of mental health and addictions services on the ground,” said Shephard, who is looking at creating more positions to assist with the city’s shelter system.

Meantime, Moncton East MLA Daniel Allain says this issue is extremely important to him.

“I’ll make sure that these requests will be discussed with caucus at cabinet in the next couple of weeks,” said Allain.

Another main issue came up with Moncton hosting the World Juniors in just a few weeks.

“I shudder to think what could potentially happen if a visiting family from the U.S., staying in this hotel, walks to the Avenir Centre and something happens and that gets out in the media and that’s the story globally,” said Wishart.

Adding, “We were wondering, should we go public with this call for action now or wait until after the World Juniors? We decided to do it now. [In] three weeks, it’s going to be difficult to make much of a different downtown, but we have to start today.”

The current number of people experiencing homelessness in the Moncton area is over 500. Top Stories

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