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Dinn Calls on Province to Support City in Protecting Unhoused People


For Immediate Release

29 November, 2023


Jim Dinn (St. John’s Centre), Leader of Newfoundland and Labrador’s NDP, is calling on the provincial government to support those living in tents at the Colonial Building in St. John’s as upwards of 20cm of snow is projected for the Avalon Peninsula today. In a letter sent to the Premier, Dinn offered immediate actions the province could take to partner with the City of St. John’s.


“Winter weather is upon us and people are still living rough outside in tents near the Colonial Building and throughout the province,” said Dinn. “Last week I attended the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness conference in Halifax and had the opportunity to learn about innovative interim and long-term approaches to solving the homelessness crisis.


“I am proposing that the provincial government work with the City of St. John’s to establish an outdoor shelter for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness similar to the one set up on Erb Street in the Waterloo Region of Ontario. This model could be replicated for other municipalities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador where needed,” said Dinn.


In his letter Dinn says he has spoken to multiple unhoused people who do not feel safe in emergency shelters.


“Despite the encouragement by your Minister of Children, Seniors, and Social Development people are refusing to go into emergency shelters for a variety of legitimate reasons,” said Dinn.


“Many of the people I have spoken to over the past few weeks do not feel safe at the shelters, and fear their mental health and addictions recovery will be undermined. Some have been in the shelter system for many months, are “tired of being moved around,” and do not want to be placed in a congregate shelter. One HMP inmate revealed to me that he would rather remain in jail where he had meals, a roof over his head, and, most of all, a door that locked at night. What he and others living in tents and shelters want most is the promise of a stable home – as well as a clear path and timeline to achieving that housing stability.

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A full transcript of the letter is transcribed below.


For further information, contact Eddy St. Coeur, Director of Communications, NDP Caucus at 729-2137 (o), or eddystcoeur@gov.nl.ca



NR29112023 Dinn Calls on Province to Support the City in Protecting Unhoused People Today
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CORR 29112023 Dinn to Premier Housing in Winter
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Andrew Furey, Premier

Province of Newfoundland and Labrador

P.O. Box 8700

Confederation Building

St. John’s, NL A1B 4J6


November 29, 2023


Dear Premier Furey,


I am proposing that the provincial government work with the City of St. John’s to establish an outdoor shelter for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness similar to the one set up on Erb Street in the Waterloo Region of Ontario. This model could be replicated for other municipalities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador where needed.


Winter weather is upon us and people are still living rough outside in tents near the Colonial Building and throughout the province. Today, upwards of 20cm of snow is projected for the Avalon Peninsula. Despite the encouragement by your Minister of Children, Seniors, and Social Development people are refusing to go into emergency shelters for a variety of legitimate reasons. Last week I attended the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness conference in Halifax and had the opportunity to learn about innovative interim and long-term approaches to solving the homelessness crisis.


Many of the people I have spoken to over the past few weeks do not feel safe at the shelters, and fear their mental health and addictions recovery will be undermined. Some have been in the shelter system for many months, are “tired of being moved around,” and do not want to be placed in a congregate shelter. One HMP inmate revealed to me that he would rather remain in jail where he had meals, a roof over his head, and, most of all, a door that locked at night. What he and others living in tents and shelters want most is the promise of a stable home – as well as a clear path and timeline to achieving that housing stability.


The Erb Street shelter in Waterloo has 50 cabins, each about 107 square feet, and each with electricity, air conditioning, and heat. A main cabin complex provides cafeteria service, water, laundry, washrooms, and a common space. Security is provided 24/7 to keep residents safe, and the site has full-time staff, including medical professionals to provide mental health, addiction, and other supports with the intention of connecting residents to permanent housing. Similar outdoor shelters exist elsewhere in other provinces.


An outdoor shelter is not meant to and should not be a permanent housing solution for those who are unsheltered or dependent on the shelter system. However, the emergency shelter system has grown and has become the default response. An outdoor shelter similar to the Erb Street model is a viable interim solution that addresses the concerns raised by those who refuse to avail of the shelter system.


In the meantime, I also recommend supports be put in place for the residents of the tent city on the grounds of the Colonial Building. Again, these supports could be duplicated for other municipalities and areas of the province and as a start should include:


1. Reimburse/compensate the City of St. John’s to provide 24-hour security, and to keep open and maintain the public washrooms in Bannerman Park.

2. Hire more NLHC/CSSD/HCS staff and station them at the Colonial Building to provide supports for the residents of the tent city and continue the process of connecting people to permanent housing.

3. Convert or use the basement/first floor of the Colonial Building for office space for the personnel referenced in recommendation 2. It could also be used as a space to meet with the tent encampment residents.

4. Construct a temporary main complex similar to the one at the Erb Street outdoor shelter, especially if the provincial government is not willing to compensate the City of St. John’s for keeping open the washroom facilities at Bannerman Park.


Thank you for your attention to this issue, and I look forward to your response. I am available to meet with you to discuss this proposal and other ideas I took from the

CAEH 2023 conference in Halifax.


Sincerely,

James Dinn, M.H.A.

District of St. John’s Centre

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