By Josée Panet-Raymond
Social entrepreneur Marcel Lebrun has developed a solution to homelessness in Canadian maritime province Fredericton, New Brunswick: the 12 Neighbours community of mini-homes.
“Every city needs a Marcel Lebrun,” says Al, 59. the self-appointed mayor of the 12 Neighbours community, as he shows street paper L’Itinéraire around the cluster of miniature homes for people experiencing homelessness in Canadian maritime province Fredericton, New Brunswick.
L’Itinéraire wrote about the 12 Neighbors community back in February 2022, when construction of the 99 homes that will complete the project was in its early stages.
In the first days of September 2023, L’Itinéraire visited the site to witness the progress of the initiative. Then, some 70 houses had been completed, almost all occupied by individuals or couples on a 24-hectare site and all within a stone’s throw of shopping centers and public transportation.
The project will significantly reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in New Brunswick’s capital, which totaled 200 earlier this year. A committee of the city of Fredericton refers potential residents from the city and surrounding areas.
Among them, Al and his fiancée, Shandra, were the first to settle in the community.
“We lived on the streets, or rather in the woods, for five years. It was hard. We were always wet – our sleeping bags, our clothes. Nothing had time to dry, and we almost always ate cold food,” Al says. “We’re going to get married in the center as soon as the construction is finished.”
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