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Death of homeless man devastates front-line workers who tried to help

by News Desk
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The death of a man in downtown Moncton early Tuesday morning amid rising homeless numbers and plummeting temperatures has been blamed on a lack of emergency shelter and assistance.

Debby Warren, executive director of Ensemble Moncton, said a man overdosed on the charity’s overdose prevention site Monday afternoon.

Staff resuscitated him, but Warren was unable to find his bed that night.

Warren burst into tears remembering that day. After 90 minutes of trying to get a man’s help on her phone, she was turned down. Her staff worried that he would not survive the night if left outside in the cold.

Watch | Debbie Warren explains how devastating homeless man’s death was for staff

‘Their Hearts Are Broken’: Ensemble Moncton Staff Fear Homeless Man Won’t Survive Night Without Bed

A Moncton man was resuscitated after an overdose, but died hours later because he had no shelter bed and no emergency phone help.

“He was in poor health and my staff was very concerned,” she said.

there is Hundreds of people in the Moncton area who are homeless, and spend the night trying to find shelter to stay warm. The city’s emergency shelters were full and Warren said despite her best efforts and calling the government helpline to no avail.

“I was numb”

In desperation, Warren tried the Department of Social Development’s emergency phone line. This is because the agency has provided hotel rooms in the past. She was told by the person she spoke to that the service was no longer available due to a recent change in “protocols”.

“I explained to her the emergency and health of this individual. I was very concerned about his health and unfortunately she was powerless to help me.”

CBC News asked the Department of Social Development about plans for the coming winter, when shelters are full and there are hundreds of people living outside of Moncton. , also asked about whether it was changed.

Spokesperson Rebecca Howland said of the winter plans, “Before any details can be announced, a contract must be completed and signed.”

She did not answer questions about emergency hotel room policies or provide an interviewee.

“The Department of Social Development is working on a case-by-case basis to provide assistance to those in desperate circumstances in New Brunswick,” Howland said in an email.

“Anyone who feels they are in a desperate situation is encouraged to call the Department of Social Development’s main line at 1-833-733-7835.”

When the man left the ensemble on Monday evening, Warren said he was very weak and had difficulty walking and speaking.

“When you’re out in the street alone in the dark, you’re pretty vulnerable.”

On Tuesday morning, she said, the RCMP found a man in his late 20s dead outside City Hall. Warren feared it was him.

“It was so bad, my staff wondered all day,” she said. “You don’t want it to be personal.”

A man in his late 20s was found dead in a public restroom outside Moncton City Hall early Tuesday morning, according to the RCMP. (Shane McGee/CBC)

Eventually she confirmed it was the same man.

“It was overwhelming,” said Warren. “I didn’t know what to do for this gentleman. I went everywhere. I did my best to find out where this man was going.”

She explained that he refused to go to the hospital, which is common for people who use drugs.

Forgotten New Brands Wickers

Warren says this isn’t the first time she and her staff have been unable to find a safe location for a client.

With no shelter available, she is emotional when she and her staff talk about what it’s like to leave people wrapped in blankets on the porch at the end of the day.

“It’s been built, but nobody’s listening,” she said.

Over the past two months, Warren has been emailing Social Development regularly asking for places for people who are homeless and struggling with addiction to go.

Warren has been sending emails to Social Development Minister Dorothy Shepard for two months urging state governments to quickly find a way to provide shelter for drug users. (Jack Poitras/CBC)

On Monday afternoon, after exhausting all options for this man, she wrote to Minister Dorothy Shepherd again on the subject “Forgotten NBers.”

“Once again, the ensemble is desperately reaching out on behalf of the individuals they serve,” she said.

“It’s windy today and the temperature is about minus 8 degrees. It’s not comfortable to sleep outside. Please help me humanely get this person and others out into the winter cold.”

The most vulnerable and inhumane service gaps

Warren wants Shepard and members of her government to visit the ensemble and other frontline service providers in the city.

“I try to be respectful,” Warren said of an email she wrote. I would like to tell you.”

Warren believes elected officials will find ways to act faster and more responsibly if she and her staff do what they do for a day.

Ensemble Moncton has nowhere else to go, and people have been camping around the building since summer. (Vanessa Branch/CBC)

“Come here and sleep on my deck for a night or two, and you’ll learn the importance of making quick decisions,” she said.

“And don’t brag about having a big surplus while New Brunswick people are sleeping on the streets.”

Harvest House opens daytime warming center

Harvest House Atlantic, one of Moncton’s two shelters, is filled with 65 emergency beds. Executive Director Marc Beribault told CBC News that the shelter has been over capacity since August.

Still, Harvest House this week began operating a daytime warming center that can accommodate up to 60 people, including overnight guests, from 8am to 8pm.

Harvest House Atlantic in Moncton opened a warming center that can accommodate 60 people daily from 8am to 8pm, in addition to the 65 who stay there. (Shane McGee/CBC)

Belliveau said the number of daily meals had increased from 220 to 350 a day over the past week and there was no way the organization could continue without additional support from the government.

“Harvest House Atlantic is heartbroken by the current situation,” Beribaux wrote in an email. “Our city is in a difficult situation right now and all the agencies on the front line have reached breaking point.”

Like other nonprofits, charities, and church groups, Beribaux has expressed frustration that winter is coming and there are no options for people in need of shelter.

“The fact that we only started talking about this situation in late November is sad. More and more support is expected.”

Marc Belliveau, executive director of Harvest House, said those working on the front lines to help homeless people are at a “breaking point” and need more government support. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Biggest fears come true

After discovering that the man found dead in downtown Moncton was the same man she had tried to help, Warren sat down and told Shepard and other members of the Blaine Higgs government I wrote yet another email to communicate the tragic outcome.

In an email, Warren expressed concern and frustration with what she had been through trying to find shelter for this man, telling them how her greatest fears had come true.

“And I haven’t heard a word from them,” she said later.

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