Officials nix garage-turned-homeless shelter
New Brunswick man told refuge for three people, with beds, wood stove and fridge, breaches planning bylaws
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.