Fredericton — City of Fredericton councillors are stepping up to the plate to deal with the homelessness issue in the only way they know how: with a band-aid solution.
“We can’t solve the homelessness crisis overnight, or in a traditional manner. It’s not even a municipal concern anyway,” said John MacDermid at Monday night’s meeting. “But, we have a few hundred grand to blow before the quarter ends, so we thought, why not beef up security? Out of sight, out of mind, right?”
The original plan was to help pay for the City Motel at the top of Regent Street to be converted into 20 affordable housing units, 12 peer-supported units, and a 24-bed emergency homeless shelter.
The new plan, which councillors concur is just easier, is to place armed security guards, many of whom are out-of-work nightclub bouncers, in strategic spots around the city to ensure no homeless people are visible to more upstanding citizens or tourists. The guards’ salaries will be paid by the city.
“That way, it will be as if there are no homeless people anymore. We completely understand that the pandemic has exacerbated this housing dilemma. It’s a shame the province won’t do anything to help,” agreed Dan Keenan. “But, it’s not my job as a councillor to be lobbying higher levels of government. It’s my job to vote against things in council meetings.”
A few disagreed with the bouncer idea.
“Where are you going to ‘bounce’ these human beings to..?” asked Kate Rogers. “They exist…they have to go somewhere.”
“I dunno. Moncton? Saint John? Not our problem,” said Henri Mallet.
Stephen Chase explained in detail how the plan will unfold.
“We’ll have a couple guards at Officers’ Square, obviously. You really don’t want any riff-raff uglying that place up — not after we’ve sunk so much cash into it already. We’ll put a guard by King’s Place, another up by the City Motel, a few at Odell, one or two by the NBEX grounds, a couple by the Union Street liquor store, a few in areas where the homeless hang out. Some bouncers will be in nice public areas as a preventive measure — no homeless people loiter in these spots that we know of, but you can never be too careful.”
One bouncer will be on hand to protect the one mural by a local artist that is deemed “acceptable.” Another will ensure that the Phoenix Learning Centre on Woodstock Road is free from unsightly impoverished residents.
The new security force will be called “Neighbours Implementing Moral Behaviours for You,” or NIMBY for short.
“I think this is going to be a game-changer for Fredericton,” said Kevin Darrah. “We just want a safe, secure city that appears, at least on the surface, as beautiful and hospitable as we imagine it to be.”