Kenneth Murnaghan is thrilled to see a community outreach centre open in Charlottetown but he’s concerned about how people with disabilities are going to access it.
Murnaghan is referring to the storefront space that opened Wednesday on Euston Street that is designed to help support the work of local shelters.
While the outreach centre operates on the first floor as part of a provincial government pilot project, the building is not fully accessible.
“Government services need to be made available for people with disabilities,’’ Murnaghan said Jan. 16.
Murnaghan is a member of the City of Charlottetown’s civic board for persons with disabilities committee although he made it clear he is speaking for himself on this matter.
Social Development and Housing Minister Ernie Hudson acknowledged at the media unveiling on Tuesday that the location is not accessible, stressing that this is a pilot project as identified in a community needs assessment. The province has going to pay about $50,000 in rent and operational costs to run it until April 1 when a further decision will be made.
“Is this going to be the permanent location of the outreach centre? Possible not,’’ Hudson said, adding that his department as well as all of the partners involved in operating the centre recognize the lack of accessibility can be a barrier and that it’s one of the reasons the current location, at 211 Euston St., can’t work long term.
The outreach centre will be operated by Bedford MacDonald House and the Salvation Army and with the following partners offering services — Department of Social Development and Housing, Health P.E.I. mental health and addictions, John Howard Society, Upper Room Food Bank, Blooming House, P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Centre, Canadian Mental Health Association, Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. and the Native Council of P.E.I.
Hudson said government and the partners wanted to ack quickly to help those in need this winter and that the intent is to add the Council of Persons with Disabilities to the working group to help bring that voice to the table going forward.
Murnaghan said permanent or not, opening a location that isn’t accessible presents a challenge.
“I’m not sure what the percentage is but I’m sure there is a percentage of homeless with a disability and not having services that are accessible denies these people the right to the services,’’
Murnaghan said. “It may be just a Band-Aid (temporary) approach that they’re doing but if you’re going to do a Band-Aid approach, do it right.’’