Homeless Face challenge when a Blizzard Rages

DON MACPHERSON

THE DAILY GLEANER

Fredericton’s shelters were doing their best to serve the needs of the local homeless population as Monday’s blizzard blasted.

“It’s dangerous out there,” said Warren Maddox, executive director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters.

The group operates Saint John House, a men’s shelter; Grace House, a women’s shelter; and Brunswick Home, a temporary, transitional space for clients.

“Our capacity has been running extremely high,” he said. “We were at overflow last night [at Saint John House].”

That’s definitely due to the storm, Maddox said, and he expects the same Monday night into Tuesday.

“Grace House is maxed out as well, and so is Brunswick Home,” he said.

Mike Smith, interim executive director of the Fredericton Community Kitchen, said he, the cook and the driver who normally delivers food to other outreach programs all made it into the kitchen Monday morning. Deliveries were cancelled, he said, but the driver pitched in.

The kitchen had about 20 people for breakfast Monday morning, about two thirds of the usual crowd, he said.

Smith said the community kitchen usually serves three meals a day. Six volunteers weren’t able to make it in for lunch, but they managed to serve up a meal anyway. But supper will be cancelled, with plans of bagged meals for those in the shelter.

“For the safety of the staff, we’re going to close down and get home,” he said.

The shelter also serves meals to those who come in off the street, but not Monday. It might not be safe for them to brave the storm to get to the facility for supper anyway, Smith said.

Maddox said while the weather poses additional challenges for their organizations, staff anticipate and prepare for it.

If the demand exceeds even the overcapacity numbers, he said, the organization has other partners with which it works - such as the Department of Social Development and local churches - to ensure people have a roof over their heads in such storms.

In a pinch, Maddox said, the Fredericton Police Force will even take people into the cells at the police station.

“They’re a space of absolute last resort,” he said.

Sgt. Justin LeBlanc with the Fredericton Police Force said no one was lodged in the cells overnight Sunday into Monday, but their doors are open for anyone in need.

Officers are always on the lookout for people who might need shelter in such storms, he said, and if that happens Monday, officers will invite people to come to the station and keep warm there. Normally, LeBlanc said, officers might offer to take someone to the shelters, but at this time of year, they’re usually over capacity already.

SOURCE: Daily Gleaner, Page A3, Telegraph-Journal, Page A8, Times and Transcript, Page A6