As Unsheltered Population Grows, So Does St. Stephen, NB's "Tent City"

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As Unsheltered Population Grows, So Does St. Stephen, NB's "Tent City"

The Elm Street Nature Park in St. Stephen has become a temporary home to a group of unsheltered people who are camping within the park. The number of unsheltered people living on the streets and parks of the St. Stephen area has increased significantly over the past few weeks due to the closure of the winter warming station on Union Street on April 28th.

At a recent Municipal District of St. Stephen council meeting, some members of the public vocalized their concerns over the rise of people living in the park and making campfires. Council discussed the possibility of exploring options to relocate the unsheltered group to a more suitable location while looking for longterm solutions. One of the primary concerns with the current location is the risk of fire. St. Stephen Fire Chief and Director of Protective Services Sean Morton expressed concerns about the park's location and the difficulty of accessing it in the event of an emergency, especially a fire.

"If we had them in one location that we controlled, we can manage the garbage, we can put out garbage cans, we can collect the garbage on a daily basis or every couple of days. We could put in port-o-potties so we're controlling the sewage," said Fire Chief Morton. "We can put in safe fire pits that we can approve, that we know have a safe perimeter around so that if they light a fire on a night, their is a safe perimeter. The risk is lower than if they're hiding in the woods behind somebody's house. I'd be more concerned about that than someplace that we can control and create a perimeter that makes it safe."

Mayor Allan MacEachern says council's challenge is to find a solution that balances safety concerns of both the local residents and the unsheltered population.

"Do we move them? Where do we move them to? If we can find that location, that's going to be less impacting as where it is right now, I guess," said Mayor MacEachern. "So we gave that challenge to staff tonight to look at what properties we have and also to talk with other provincial counterparts on what they can help us with. Because let's not forget, winter is coming before we know it, so we might as well start. I mean, we're already working on that scenario already. But where is that shelter going to be? Can that shelter be part of the to assist this issue? Right, but can it be turned around quickly? I don't want the wheels mostly going too slow because we have citizens that are concerned."

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Video Upload Date: May 25, 2023

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