Moncton shelter to charge clients $300 monthly fee

A homeless shelter in Moncton has announced clients will now be paying $300 per month, despite opposition from some front line workers.

Jean Dubé, the executive director for the House of Nazareth, says the funding is needed to help maintain operations.

“There’s a choice to make,” he told reporters Friday. “Close the doors and everybody (is) on the street, or, keep this place running.”

Only people receiving an income, such as social assistance cheques–which are typically $537 for a single adult–will be required to pay, according to Dubé.

“If you don’t have any revenue, you don’t pay,” he says. “We’re not going to throw you out because you don’t have revenue.”

It will be considered on a “case-by-case” basis, Dubé says.

But Trevor Goodwin, the senior director for outreach services with the YMCA of Greater Moncton, says this could send more people back to the streets.

The news didn’t sit well with many clients of the Albert Street shelter.

“It’s going to be another hit to them and anger is going to play a factor and small crimes are going to recover,” says Ken Meldrum, who has been staying at the shelter for more than a week. “Stealing food, whatever, shoes, boots, just to keep going.”

The husband of another couple, who are hoping to find a place to stay sooner rather than later, says he couldn’t believe the news.

“If we were to give up the $600, which would be $300 apiece, if we would’ve given that up, there’s no way we could find a place,” says Steven Roberts.

Goodwin says for people who do stay in shelters, the cost could keep them there for longer.

“In order to save up for a damage deposit, and to move out of homelessness, you’re having to stay that much longer in a shelter, in a precarious situation,” Goodwin says.

Cal Maskery, the executive director of Harvest House Atlantic, says they charged clients $250 monthly several years ago, but it became a “nightmare” to collect so they eventually stopped doing it.

He says a bigger conversation needs to happen with the Department of Social Development.

“Now, if someone’s at a shelter, they’re deducting $150 a month off their cheque, which goes back to Social Development,” he says. “I think that should go back to the shelter.”

Global News sent an interview request for Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard Thursday afternoon, but she hasn’t been available.

In an emailed statement to Global News Friday, Jean Bertin, a communications officer with the Department of Social Development, says “shelters have, for many years, asked clients to contribute to operating costs by paying a very modest daily rate.”

The statement continues to say, “every social assistance recipient is expected to use their monthly cheque to cover basic needs, including housing and food. In the vast majority of cases, social assistant recipients pay rent to their landlords.”

A statement from Isabelle LeBlanc, communication’s director for the City of Moncton, says their focus is on Rising Tide Community Initiatives Inc., a newly-formed affordable housing group that recently presented its business case to councillors, but acknowledges the city doesn’t have any say in management of House of Nazareth as it’s a private entity.

“We had high hopes that the new facility would meet the needs of the community and are concerned with the sudden change,” LeBlanc says in an email.

The House of Nazareth received $480,000 in provincial and federal funding in May 2019 to purchase and renovate the building, along with an extra $66,500 from the provincial government for operations and rent supplements.

But there have been many unexpected costs along the way, according to Dubé, which have totalled “approximately $1.5 to $1.6-million.”

The operating budget is almost $600,000 per year, Dubé told reporters.

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