Community organizations have been calling on the municipal government to aid in the fight against the housing crisis, and their calls have only been answered with hesitation.
Much of the work being done to help individuals experiencing homelessness is carried out by non-profit agencies and volunteers in the community. It’s time for more government interventions in order to protect the citizens of our city.
Even when non-profit agencies present the municipal government with a solution to the housing crisis, Fredericton City Council consistently struggles to acknowledge its responsibility for protecting its vulnerable citizens. Their argument often involves passing the buck to the province, and claiming that housing is not a municipal issue.
This is why they initially reject opportunities such as the City Motel project, which was proposed to create 20 affordable housing units, 12 peer supported units, and a 24-bed emergency shelter.
In instances such as this one, the council is only willing to revisit the opportunity after community uproar. The same happened in 2018 with the opening of the Out of the Cold Shelter.
But to be fair, it would seem that the Council just can’t find it in their budget. What with $43.8 million being allocated to “public safety,” and only a mere $803,000 set aside for community grants according to the 2021 Budget. In comparison, that’s less than two per cent of what they’re dispensing largely to the Fredericton Police Force.
When did the safety of vulnerable individuals living on the street fall outside of considerations for public safety?
And the safety of these individuals is already of grave concern. As someone who has worked with individuals experiencing homelessness for the past couple years, I’ve never encountered so much exposure to tragedy and death. These instances aren’t overly represented in popular media due to the privacy of the individuals and their families. While the exact number of deaths is not important, I will tell you that even one death is too many. This needs to stop.
Death among the population of individuals experiencing homelessness has become so common that when someone passes away, the question is no longer, “What happened?”, but has become, “Where were they found?”
When did we become so expectant of death? Why is no one talking about this?
Housing is a health issue. Housing is a political issue. And we are experiencing a housing crisis here in Fredericton.
How many more homeless individuals have to die before our local government does something about it? How many more parents must lose their children? How many more people have to lose their friends and family members? How many generations must die on the streets of Fredericton before the Council opens their eyes to this crisis?
It’s time that we hold our municipal government accountable for the safety of our vulnerable citizens.
I ask you to pay attention to the issues close to your heart, and to look out for your vulnerable neighbors. Reach out to your local councillor and share your concerns about the Council’s lack of action on this issue. We know this Council responds to public outcry. Let that be a tool in the fight against our current housing crisis.
Let it be known that no one else needs to die before Fredericton City Council finally steps up to the plate on the issue of homelessness in our community.
Keirstin Hoyt is a social work student at St. Thomas University and works in the non-profit community of Fredericton.