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Saint John's new homeless hub offers place to warm up during day, sleep at night

A hub was originally scheduled to open in April, but the province moved up the date after a homeless man died from injuries sustained in a tent fire.  (Google - image credit)
A hub was originally scheduled to open in April, but the province moved up the date after a homeless man died from injuries sustained in a tent fire. (Google - image credit)

A promised homeless hub in Saint John has opened, but there's still a lot of work to be done before it's fully operational.

The building on Somerset Street in the north end has an overnight out-of-the-cold shelter, which opened in December, but now also offers a warm place to spend the day as well as access to showers.

The hub is run by Outflow Ministry Inc., which also runs the year-round shelter on Waterloo Street.

Tony Dickinson, director of housing for Outflow Ministry, characterized the recent opening as a "soft opening," adding there's lots of work to be done before the centre can truly be called a hub.

"It will still be transitioning more into more of the full idea of the hub this spring," Dickinson said.

"So things like having health care, their social development staff, their mental health and addictions support, their working with Fresh Start out of that building and things like that."

Tony Dickinson, Director of Housing of the Outflow Ministry Men's Homeless Shelter, said "Our hope with the event is that people will have a little more understanding of what it's like to be outside at this time of year. And they'll be able to focus that learning on ways that we can concretely help people."
Tony Dickinson, Director of Housing of the Outflow Ministry Men's Homeless Shelter, said "Our hope with the event is that people will have a little more understanding of what it's like to be outside at this time of year. And they'll be able to focus that learning on ways that we can concretely help people."

Tony Dickinson, director of housing for the Outflow Ministry, says the hub had a 'soft opening' on Feb.1 to give people respite from the cold, and will add more services in the spring. (CBC News)

A hub was originally scheduled to open in April but the timeline was moved up after a fatal fire in a homeless encampment in January.

Dickinson said he hopes the work being done on the hub now means there won't have to be discussions about the issue next winter.

"Hopefully, [we] won't be having this conversation again next year because the infrastructure that we're building today will already be in place," he said.

Dickinson said the goal at the moment is just to offer people a warm, dry place to be during winter.

That goal will shift come spring, when the hub is able to hire a full complement of workers.

"There might be some adjustments in the long-term future of the hub," said Dickinson.

"It will be less of a drop-in-centre and more of a place to meet with folks or to access services. But for now, the priority is allowing people somewhere safe to be inside."