On January 21, city crews, with the help of the Fredericton police, began to dismantle and remove a tent city near Government House in Fredericton.
The move was prompted by a propane fire which caused the destruction of three tents in the encampment.
This past summer, the Fredericton police endorsed and monitored tent cities within Fredericton. This fire marks the end of the project, at least until spring time.
Warren Maddox, the executive director of the Fredericton Shelters, welcomes the end of tent city this winter.
While he endorsed the project in warmer weather, Maddox acknowledges that the winter brings new dangers and it is important to get people inside.
The cold is a problem and the way in which tenters deal with the cold brings new safety concerns.
Maddox says they suspected there were dangerous heating devices being used, but were not sure for quite a while. That first changed when they found a wood stove being used inside of a tent.
“This poses major safety concerns,” says Maddox. “Carbon monoxide poisoning can easily kill someone in a tent without them knowing it’s happening.”
The heating problem was exacerbated by “street missionaries” providing supplies to the homeless population. Maddox confirms that well-meaning but counter-productive individuals supplied the propane devices which eventually led to the tent fires.
Before any tents were taken down, the city confirmed with local shelters that there were enough beds to take in all of the displaced people.
This year, they wanted to “pull the pin” on tent city earlier, but supply chain issues led to delays in completing a temporary winter shelter at Small Craft Aquatic Centre.
Maddox says many tenters have come to the shelters, but some remain steadfast in staying outside.
These individuals have noted that they either have a distrust of the shelters or believe there are too many rules.
Maddox defends shelter rules stating that they are in-line with what any individual would have to abide by in any other housing arrangement.
He says the end goal of the shelter has always been to connect people to options for permanent housing. If they cannot abide by shelter rules, they will not be successful in an apartment setting.
Maddox expressed his satisfaction with how the tent cities operated during the summer. Police monitoring was useful in helping connect people to resources while ensuring the encampments did not become “pockets of anarchy.”
He will be meeting with other local players to debrief on the project and plan for improvements in 2022.