Of­fi­cials nix garage-turned-home­less shel­ter

New Brunswick man told refuge for three peo­ple, with beds, wood stove and fridge, breaches plan­ning by­laws

The Hamilton Spectator - - Canada & World - ALEX COOKE

SAINT-AN­TOINE, N.B. — A New Brunswick man who turned his garage into a makeshift shel­ter says his at­tempt to help home­less peo­ple was shut down by a by­law he didn’t know about.

In Novem­ber, Serge Par­ent of the vil­lage of Saint-An­toine in­vited three peo­ple liv­ing on the street in nearby Monc­ton to live in his garage.

“It started out from the heart. I felt we needed to help these peo­ple,” he said. “My idea was, in­stead of putting my car in my garage, it would be bet­ter to have peo­ple in there.”

Par­ent owns seven acres of prop­erty in the vil­lage, and was con­nected to the trio after a Monc­ton man who worked with the city’s home­less reached out to him on so­cial me­dia.

He said the garage was out­fit­ted with beds, a wood stove and a fridge, and the peo­ple had ac­cess to wa­ter, beau­ti­ful scenery and gar­den plots so they could learn to grow their own food.

Par­ent, an oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist, said his garage was more than just a shel­ter for the peo­ple stay­ing there.

“What helped them a lot was the fact that I went there ev­ery morn­ing just to make sure they’re OK,” he said.

Par­ent said he worked with the peo­ple he took in to help them con­nect with na­ture and learn new life skills to help them over­come ad­dic­tion.

But in De­cem­ber, he said he re­ceived a let­ter from the Kent Re­gional Ser­vice Com­mis­sion, which helps over­see by­laws in Kent County, say­ing he needed a per­mit to turn the garage into a dwelling.

“I didn’t know, I was just try­ing to help peo­ple,” said Par­ent, adding that he thought his garage was a much bet­ter op­tion than the tents they had pre­vi­ously been liv­ing in. “It was in­su­lated, it had ev­ery­thing for their ba­sic needs.”

Nei­ther the com­mis­sion nor Saint-An­toine Mayor Ricky Gautreau re­sponded to a re­quest for com­ment Sun­day, but Gautreau told Global News last week that there had been some com­plaints from the com­mu­nity.

New Brunswick’s Com­mu­nity Plan­ning Act says no more than one dwelling can be placed on the same piece of land un­less they meet other pro­vi­sions in the provin­cial build­ing reg­u­la­tion.

While Par­ent is dis­ap­pointed that they can’t stay with him any longer, he said he has no re­grets.

“We’re all one, we’re all the same, we’re just try­ing to sur­vive,” he said.

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