On a cold and wintry night, a shelter can be a lifesaver for homeless people.

But red tape has created a roadblock for plans to turn Fredericton’s former Bishop’s House into an out-of-the-cold shelter.

The sign is up on the front door, but the doors aren't open because the property is not zoned for it.

That means nobody will be staying there on Thursday night after a winter storm moved through the province.

"We knew that going into this that it wouldn't fit, we were just given the assurance that it would be handled,” said Faith McFarland of the Community Action Group on Homelessness.

Homelessness in Fredericton has been in the spotlight lately, with some people living on the streets in tents.

“We were told this house was going to be open for us homeless people for a place for us to put our heads down at night,” said resident Tracy Jewett. “And now we're told that it's not going to be opened.”

Joan Kingston of the Community Action Group on Homelessness wants the city to act.

“The city needs to use its power to say ‘yes, for this purpose, for this temporary amount of time Bishop Court can be used as an emergency shelter,’” Kingston said.

While it might seem like red tape to some,  Mayor Mike O’Brien says it's a reality that has to be dealt with.

“I just think quite honestly that my participation in a bunch of meetings over the weekend and the fact that everything was happening, they just assumed it would be okay, and it’s not,” O’Brien said. “There's a process that needs to be followed.”

McFarland says extraordinary measures are needed to make this shelter happen.

“We went through two weeks of extremely cold weather,” McFarland said. “We could have lost lives. This has gone on too long.”

And it will go on longer, as this shelter project remains at a standstill.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Lyall.