Looming closure of Out of the Cold shelter sparks calls for a ‘wet’ shelter in Moncton
Many of the people staying at Moncton’s emergency Out of the Cold shelter don’t know where they will go when the temporary shelter closes at the end of March.
“Last year, I had to spend it in a tent and I may have to go back into a tent,” said Ryan George, who has been staying at the shelter since it opened in December 2018.
George said he’s battled methamphetamine and opioid addiction for 13 years and if he’s using, he’s not allowed to stay at any of Moncton’s permanent, “dry” shelters once the temporary shelter shuts down.
“You always run back to the streets,” he said.
Lisa Ryan is the director of outreach programs at the YMCA’s ReConnect program. She says George’s story is all too common and highlights the need for a permanent “wet” shelter.
“If they are needing a safe place to be able to use their drugs, that would be offered to them but with the attention of a medically-trained professional that we would refer individuals really quickly into addiction services and mental-health services and then, of course, having a safe place to sleep.”
She is asking the province to fund a fully-staffed wet shelter in the city by October, and says it will take at least $1 million to get it off the ground.
Sarah Williams, communications officer for the New Brunswick Department of Social Development said in an email statement that the department is still working on an affordable housing plan “to support the homeless individuals that are ready to transition from emergency shelters to more permanent, affordable and safe housing options that will meet their needs.”
But she would not say if wet shelters are part of that plan.
Ryan supports a housing-first policy but says it’s unrealistic to expect someone battling drug addiction and/or mental illness to thrive in subsidized housing.
“You put them in an apartment in a market rent apartment and with no one else around them that understands what they are going through.”
She said people need a place where they can overcome their addiction and access mental-health support to overcome the cycle of homelessness.
“We cannot forget them and we cannot take away their right to housing and to shelter.”
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