YMCA sounding alarm on rising homelessness rates in Moncton

With the number of homeless people on the rise in Greater Moncton, the YMCA is sounding the alarm with the colder months right around the corner.

“We’re trying to come up with new initiatives to make sure that these individuals don’t get harmed during the winter months, they don’t experience things like frostbite or even death,”says Lisa Ryan, director of Outreach & Employment Services.

“We’re worried that this could be the first winter that we could see some of those things increase.”

Ryan says they’re aware of approximately 120 people who are homeless, using their services, which include visiting tents in the area. She says there’s still the “hidden homeless,” referring to those who are couch surfing or using shelters. She says they were working with roughly half that number last year.

“I think all of the organizations that are on the ground that see this rise in numbers of individuals who are experiencing states of homelessness are very concerned.”

Lisa Ryan of the YMCA says they’re aware of roughly 120 people who are currently homeless in Greater Moncton

Lack of affordable housing is one of her concerns, in part due to rooming homes shutting down in recent years.

“(It’s) very difficult to house people, which keeps them in shelters longer, and the longer somebody’s taking up a bed in a shelter, the longer somebody else has to wait,” says Ryan. “That’s kind of what we’re seeing. That’s what’s alarming to us.”

Cal Maskery, who is executive director and founder of the Moncton shelter Harvest House Atlantic, says they’ve been over capacity during the warmer summer months, with as many as 57 visitors using the shelter designed for 32.

It’s a viscous cycle when some people can’t rent their own place due to mental health and addictions concerns. Ryan says they hope to offer more services in the form of supportive housing programs, including assisting someone trying to rent following those concerns.

Ronald Straight says he was living on his own until injury about six weeks ago forced him to leave work and turn to the shelter.

“(There are) a lot of obstacles for a lot of people,” he says. “People are on social services and on very, very limited income. Again, it’s just a blessing to have a place like this for people to come to.”

Maskery says they saw the need for more affordable housing, and they hope to double their ”step-up housing” rooms to 72 over the next two or three years. The rooms are made for someone starting a job or education, who can prove themselves to be “stable,” to 72 over the next two or three years.

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