17 March 2023
Hon. Dorothy Shephard
Minister of Social Development, Province of New Brunswick
Sartain MacDonald Building
P. O. Box 6000
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Minister Shephard:
Re: Winter Warming Centre – 435 King Street, Fredericton
I am writing today regarding the “winter warming centre” that was established by the Department of Social Development on King Street in Fredericton earlier this year.
Of course we all agree that people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity need and deserve a warm and safe place – particularly true during the harsh winter months. The provincial and municipal governments, the private sector, not-for-profit organizations and charities are all seeking and working towards solutions for the growing homelessness, addictions and mental health issues in our community. In order for all of these groups and government to effectively address the issue and help people, it is essential that lines of communication remain open, and we are all working in the same direction. Unfortunately, this was not the case with the location at 435 King Street.
It is our understanding that the centre was opened without consultation with the municipal government or without any communication with the location’s surrounding neighbours – primarily small businesses. It is also our understanding that the location is inadequately staffed for its purpose (including lack of security) and the resulting lack of integration of services has exacerbated the situation. We have heard from many members and other businesses in the area that their staff and clients/customers are having negative experiences and/or feeling intimidated by the centre’s clients and those that hang around the location.
In our opinion, the Department should have:
- Located the warming centre in a different location;
- Communicated / consulted with relevant stakeholders and neighbours before opening the centre; and
- Assumed more responsibility and accountability for the resulting negative impacts on the immediate area in Fredericton’s downtown core.
We would also reiterate our position that the Victoria Health Centre (or land adjacent to it) would be the ideal location for integrated services to assist individuals experiencing homelessness, addictions and/or mental health issues – including warming/cooling centres or other short-term solutions of this nature. This location is close enough to other services in the downtown core while not being immediately in the centre of a key business district in the city. We understand the logistical issues that have prevented such use of the Victoria Health Centre to this point, but if the various levels of government, private sector and non-for-profit organizations and charities work together, we can figure out a solution that works for all parties.
We appreciate the need to take action to help those individuals in need in a timely manner, but we have to view decisions like this more wholistically – considering the impact on the entire community and citizens. This again underscores the need for consistent communication so that we can be more proactive on solutions collectively.
If you have questions or require clarification, please contact me at any time. We would be happy to meet with you and your team to discuss this matter further.
Krista Ross, CEO, Fredericton Chamber of Commerce
cc: Kate Rogers, Mayor, City of Fredericton
cc: Bruce McCormack, ED, Downtown Fredericton, Inc.