FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government will work with the John Howard Society of Fredericton and the Downtown Community Health Centre to offer additional shelter space for individuals in the capital region who are experiencing homelessness.

“Over the past 18 months, homelessness reached a point we had not previously seen,” said Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard. “We were fortunate to have our dedicated partners at the Fredericton Downtown Community Health Centre operate the out-of-the-cold shelter for us last winter and we are pleased to have them join us again in an expanded operation.”

The John Howard Society has purchased a building at 332 Brunswick St. and will open it as a shelter. It will be operated by volunteers and staff from the Downtown Community Health Centre. Some minor renovations are required to the building. The shelter is expected to open shortly. St. Paul’s United Church will offer a warming centre until the shelter is open.

“The expansion of emergency shelter beds in Fredericton will help professionals connect with homeless individuals so that we can help them get the services and support they require in the community to find safe, comfortable and suitable housing,” said Shephard. “Since April 1, we have found permanent housing for 49 individuals who had previously been homeless or living in a shelter. That is progress, but there remains plenty of work to do.”

“We are excited about this new partnership with the Downtown Community Health Centre and the Department of Social Development,” said John Barrow, executive director of the John Howard Society of Fredericton. “We want this to be about more than just a stop-gap solution to homelessness – we want to eventually develop the property into additional affordable housing units. But until that time, we are excited to provide space from which the Downtown Community Health Centre can operate the out-of-the-cold shelter.”

The Fredericton Downtown Community Health Centre is a partnership between the University of New Brunswick and Horizon Heath Network. The university’s faculty of nursing helps operate the shelter.

“The out-of-the-cold is more than a shelter,” said Joan Kingston, nurse manager and co-manager of the centre. “This initiative is part of a larger plan to address long-term issues and to help end chronic homelessness in Fredericton. We enjoyed wonderful community support at the out-of-the-cold shelter last winter and we are hoping we can count on the same support at the new shelter.”