The Greater Moncton area has never had as many people living outside without shelter as it does right now.
That was the message from a pair of front-line workers who deal with the city’s homeless issue on a daily basis.
Father Chris VanBuskirk of St. George’s Anglican Church and Trevor Goodwin of the Greater Moncton YMCA spoke for two minutes each at a council meeting Monday afternoon but packed a real wallop with their brief statements.
Goodwin, the senior director of outreach services at the YMCA, revealed there are currently over 500 people living on the streets and that’s not counting the roughly 160 people at the city’s two shelters.
Both believe it’s a humanitarian crisis.
“One hundred per cent. He [VanBuskirk] had a fine line that he said in there. If this was cats and dogs out there the general public would be losing its mind in outrage and its human beings and no one seems to be batting an eye,” said Goodwin.
VanBuskirk said there are 556 individuals living on the streets right now.
“In addition to the individuals who are currently in shelter beds. So, 556 individuals on the street plus those who have shelter beds tonight,” said VanBuskirk.
VanBuskirk told council he fears people will stumble upon frozen bodies if a building is not re-purposed to house the homeless for the winter.
“It’s very frustrating because the province has this three-quarters of a billion dollar surplus and to sit back and say we’re looking for a community-led solution is not enough,” said VanBuskirk.
A spokesperson for the Department of Social Development told CTV News on Monday details are still being finalized for extreme weather measures across the province including an emergency cold shelter in Moncton.
Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold told council she meets with social development every week to talk about the crisis.
“And to express our concerns about the numbers and what’s happening in our community right now. It is absolutely critical and our provincial government has stated on numerous occasions that this is a top priority for them,” said Arnold.
Goodwin said the province has stepped up.
“I’m working with them. We have a part of the solution which is a stabilization shelter that is happening this winter, but it’s not enough,” said Goodwin.
VanBuskirk kept the doors of his downtown church open last year as an emergency overnight shelter, but he won’t be doing the same thing this winter.
However, he will be keeping the church open from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 pm on certain nights so people can come in, grab a sandwich and a hot cup of coffee before heading back out into the cold.