Out of The Cold: A Homelessness Plan Comes Together
Back in the 80’s there was this TV series called The A Team. It was about a small group of “good guy” soldiers of fortune. Their leader was Colonel Hannibal Smith, and he had this catchphrase he’d utter every week just after they saved the day: “I love it when a plan comes together”.
I couldn’t help but think of that as I watched the plan come together to help the people who are sleeping rough in tents down by the Victoria Health Centre, and elsewhere in Fredericton.
Last week several organizations and individuals concerned with this crisis – The Community Action Group on Homelessness, the John Howard Society, Horizon Health, the Fredericton Homeless Shelters, several different churches, United Way Central, local MLAs, Mayor O’Brien (and some of those from his TASK Force on Homelessness), social workers and others gathered to brainstorm what can be done quickly to get these folks off the street and into a safer situation.
Ideas were discussed, committees were formed, plans were developed, and duties were assigned.
Long story short, a place was identified when the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton offered their former Bishop’s residence on Brunswick Street. Volunteers moved in to get it ready, others organized an effort to find donations of needed items, while others are organizing the staffing, much of which will be of volunteers under the direction of experienced people, and come tomorrow (Thursday) evening, those living rough will have somewhere to go that is safe, warm and welcoming.
I am just skimming the surface here of what it has taken to pull this off. The details that have to be considered to accommodate people living with serious challenges from mental health and in some cases serious drug addictions, including health and safety issues, are considerable. And some have pets so they have to be accommodated too.
Also considerable was the positive response of the public. However, help is still needed. This is a link to the Urgent Needs List. If you can provide anything on this list, check off that you are on it, and commit to delivering it to the house TODAY.
There’s also a list of items that will be needed as the winter goes on. If you want to help, that list is on this page of the Community Action Group on Homelessness website.
One of the greater needs is for volunteers for various shifts at the house. This would be with the on-site support of experienced staff who will manage the facility. Those interested in donating some of their time can find out more of what would be expected and register through the ConnectFredericton website. You’ll see a logo for Out of The Cold, which is the name of program this initiative copies.
All of this is good of course in that it meets an immediate need. But it is not the answer to homelessness. That would be a home, through Housing First. There is good news on that front too, with the Community Action Group on Homelessness and the John Howard Society recently announcing that construction is about to start on the first four housing units under the Housing First Program. And on top of this, this week Fredericton City Council declared two city lots surplus and voted to sell them for $1.00 each, for more Housing First Units, up to seven micro-units in fact. Still more housing for people who are homeless is expected to roll out in the spring when the federal government’s National Housing Strategy money becomes available.
So there – some good news both on the immediate crisis of people sleeping rough, and on more permanent affordable housing, both made possible because of the efforts of Fredericton’s real life A Team.
I love it when a plan comes together.
Thanks for reading.