Moncton’s chamber of commerce says the problem of homelessness is no longer just a social issue and they want political leaders to deal with what they describe as a growing economic concern.
John Whishart, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton, said he isn’t typically one to champion social issues like homelessness.
But, he said the problem in Moncton’s downtown has gotten so out of control that tackling homelessness needs to be on all political platforms.
“We now have around 300 chronic homeless people living here, living rough, so now it is not just a social issue — it is a business issue,” said Wishart.
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Many businesses along Main Street in Moncton have had to deal with a growing number of problems including loitering, drug abuse and vandalism, Wishart said.
“The café here, the owner had his front glass door smashed in by a homeless person who was angry last week,” said Wishart.
“We are hearing from restaurants [who] say homeless people are coming in and asking for money while people are eating.”
Wishart said he’s reached out to the four major parties in the ongoing New Brunswick election. He’s looking for a commitment to address the lack of affordable housing and to improve access to addiction services and mental health support for the homeless.
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“The federal government has already pledged $300 million under the National Housing Strategy so that money is available. Let’s use it now and invest it,” Wishart said.
It’s a call that is echoed by groups like the United Way, The John Howard Society and Food Depot Alimentaire.
The three organizations have joined together to create Rising Tide, a non-profit organization meant to tackle homelessness.
“Our program Rising Tide calls for levels of government to go out and purchase properties in the community and re-purpose them for homeless people,” said Dale Hicks, president of Food Depot Alimentaire.
Rising Tide, he said, would also provide access to wrap-around services — targeted at children and youth with complex needs — for people who are homeless.
“It is taxpayer dollars at the end of the day and we just want some taxpayer dollars back in the community to address this issue,” said Hicks.
PC Leader Blaine Higgs said this week he would support the program.
But Charles Burrell, founder of The Humanity Project, said he’s heard those kinds of promises from political leaders in the past and isn’t convinced that any party will actually follow through post-election.
“The sad part it should not be an election issue it should be an everyday issue. It should happen every day that we should address this issue because this is the result of not addressing this issue over the last couple of years,” he said.
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