'We could fill another tomorrow': N.B. non-profit hoping to fund another home for adults with mental illness

A home built for adults with complex mental health needs is celebrating one year of being open – entirely during the pandemic.

And the non-profit behind the home says while it's been challenging, they know they could be helping more people.

"Costello House" opened on March 25, 2020, named in memory of Const. Robb Costello, a Fredericton police officer who was shot and killed in a 2018 shooting.

Costello's widow, Jackie McLean, finds solace volunteering with the non-profit New Brunswick Community Residences, who operates three residences for adults with mental illness – including Costello House.

"I get a pang of pride and joy every time I say the words 'Costello House' because it really does feel like Robb is living on," she said in an interview with CTV Atlantic.

Costello died along with three others – Const. Sara Burns and Donnie Robichaud and Bobbie Lee Wright. The shooter was found not criminally responsible because he suffered from a mental illness.

"My mother-in-law asking me, you know, why do you do work with people with mental illness when somebody who was mentally ill killed your spouse. I said that, I know had Robb had the opportunity that day to speak to that gentleman, that he would have wanted to help him. That's why Robb was there, cause Robb was a helper," she said.

Costello House has six residents, who receive 24/7 care but also gain independence through programming and employment.

New Brunswick Community Residences executive director Stephanie Brewer says there's a long waitlist for their residences.

"I get calls all the time from hospitals, even now, 'Do you have any vacancies? Are there any openings? What services do you provide?'" she said. "We have been full, unfortunately. I would love to see us be able to open more homes like this."

But they need the help, including more funding.

"I know there's a big need for mental health services, and I think with the pandemic going on it's shed even more light on that need," Brewer said.

She wants to work with social development and the health authorities more on filling gaps in the system, including more crisis or temporary beds.

McLean says the organization also needs volunteers for the board – particularly people skilled in property management or web design.

Someday, they hope to open more homes for those in need – and McLean has an idea of what to name them.

"I would like to see Costello House joined by Burns House and a Robichaud House and a Wright House," she said.