Working community group established to address homelessness in St. Stephen

ST. STEPHEN – The homeless population continues to grow in the Town of St. Stephen, leaving the community concerned.

Saint John has reported a record number homeless population. Based on calls to St. Stephen, concerned citizens of the town are seeing the substantial growth of unsheltered people in Charlotte County. Due to the concerns, a working group has been created to address the issue.

The large group has met a number of times within its three-week existence. Approximately 24 community members were invited to attend the most recent meeting.

“We’ve already accomplished an incredible amount in a short time,” said Coun. Vic Thiessen.

Though town council did not initiate the group, Thiessen says council members are “eager to work with the working group.”

The community is the driving force behind the group, focusing its efforts on talking to unsheltered people within the community.

A 10-question survey was created and distributed to the unsheltered within the community through the help of organizations like Neighbourhood Works and protective services.

“The response has been very good,” said Thiessen.

As the group continues to receive feedback from the survey, they will narrow down potential options based on the needs raised through the survey.

Engineers from Saint John have been tasked with assessing potential buildings for a long-term housing location.

“First we need to know how many people are in need,” Thiessen said.

Once that information is collected, the group can move forward with planning. Securing necessary funding to hire an outreach worker is also a part of those plans.

Despite non-viable housing options consuming some of the group’s time, their efforts are unfolding at record speeds, according to Thiessen.

“I’m thrilled there are so many people in town who want to be a part of these solutions,” he said. “We’re not talking about one particular group of needs. We’re talking about a very diverse group of needs. That’s why this survey is so critical.”

Heather Chase, with Horizon House, created the survey, which is compiled of questions that will help the working group grasp the needs of the community and assist them as they proceed with housing plans.