Proposed location for emergency homeless shelter also seen as ‘good fit’ for new Outreach Centre

The group that runs the Outreach Centre in Charlottetown is disappointed in a council decision that could delay an emergency homeless shelter planned for a parking lot on Park Street, and is asking councillors to consider it from another position. 

“What would you do if it was one of your family members who was there? What would you want to be done if you didn’t have the capacity? What would you want others to do?” said Roxanne Carter-Thompson, executive director of the Adventure Group.

Charlottetown city council voted 6-4 Tuesday to send a proposal for the shelter back to the planning board, potentially delaying when it could be up and running. The deferral motion came from Coun. Terry MacLeod, who said time was needed for outside input from residents of the Park Street area.

Meeting on Thursday

Council has called a special meeting Thursday at 4:30 p.m. to vote on whether to rescind Tuesday’s motion and to allow the proposal to go forward.

The proposal, which comes from the provincial government, would see two 25-unit modular housing units at 68 Park St., near the Hillsborough Bridge, to house people currently living in tents. Those units are due to be delivered Nov. 1.

The Adventure Group’s one-year contract to operate the Outreach Centre runs out next spring, and they are working on a new, three-year proposal. Carter-Thompson said not only is the 2.4-hectare parking lot needed for the shelter, it would also make a convenient location for a new Outreach Centre. 

“Absolutely, it would be a good fit for there.”

The parking lot near COVID-19 test site on Park Street would be the location for the two 25-unit modular housing units. (Laura Meader/CBC)

She said many clients would just go back and forth from the Outreach Centre, which is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., to the Park Street shelter, which is scheduled to be open only from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. 

As well, she said the current Outreach Centre location, on Euston Street in the old curling club building, offers little privacy for clients.

It’s not a great place for our clients to be. They are on display and that doesn’t work.— Roxanne Carter-Thompson

“I don’t know how people aren’t getting whiplash when they’re driving down the road. Their head automatically turns to see what’s going on and it’s not a great place for our clients to be. They are on display and that doesn’t work. That doesn’t sit well with us as an organization who respects our clients’ confidentiality.”

The immediate concern, however, is getting the shelter set up before it gets much colder. There are an estimated 113 people facing homelessness in Charlottetown.

“Snow is gonna fly here. You know, on P.E.I., we get nice cold winters. And for those individuals that don’t have a warm place to sleep at night, I’m very concerned.”

Carter-Thompson praised the provincial government for trying to address the homeless situation in Charlottetown. Housing Minister Matthew MacKay said the province has been in discussions with the city since August about the shelter, and he was “blindsided” by council’s decision Tuesday night.

“The only thing they had to do was give us a vote on a variance last night and they chose to defer it. It’s just mind-boggling that we’re even having this conversation.”

Province considering options

The Park Street shelter is meant to be a short-term solution while officials work on something more long-term.

If council does not vote to grant the variance at Thursday’s meeting, the province will look at legal options to have the variance granted and consider possible back-up plans, MacKay said.

 “We’re going to be reaching out to church organizations, community halls, anything, to anybody that might be able to help us out on this. I’m really asking for all hands on deck on this,” he said.

“You can just imagine waking up in a cold tent this morning and what that must feel like, and I’m going to do everything I can to get this rectified.”

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