A community outreach centre that will offer services to those most in need opens Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in Charlottetown.
The Department of Social Development and Housing has leased a storefront space at 211 Euston St. to help support the work of local shelters.
It will cost the province about $50,000 to operate this pilot program until April 1. That takes care of rent and operational expenses.
The centre will only operate on the first floor as part of the pilot. The apartments above are not affected.
A further decision, based on the uptake, will be made from there.
It will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and offer support to people seeking financial assistance, counselling, employment, food and housing.
Islanders will be able to access a washroom, shower, laundry facilities, telephone and computer and will provide regular programming for those in need of these services.
The centre will be managed by Bedford MacDonald House staff and oversight will be provided by a working group made up of government and community partners, including the 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 Services, Canadian Mental Health Association, Salvation Army, Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. and the Native Council of P.E.I.
Mike Redmond, residential manager of Bedford MacDonald House, tried to put the need of such an outreach centre in some perspective.
“We’ve seen an increase from one to two people every two weeks to seven to 10 people a day and that’s not only men. It’s women and it’s families,’’ Redmond told The Guardian in an interview on Tuesday after a tour of the new facility.
“We know the biggest areas of concern or challenges at the moment are housing, obviously, transportation and accessing services. This will, hopefully, alleviate a lot of those concerns and help people reconnect back into the community.’’
The centre will operate with two people at all times and programming will be offered by government and community partners on a regularly scheduled basis. No appointment is required and Islanders can drop in to the centre as needed, even if it’s just to get warm.
Transportation may also be provided if necessary.
Redmond added that nurses from UPEI will be offering their services and the city’s police department will also be engaged.
“We have various programs and we’re sending people in 10 different directions. But to have one spot for everyone to come to (where) you can access a variety of services is going to be huge for our members."
-Jess Macaulay, Canadian Mental Health Association’s Fitzroy Centre
Bob Doyle, who works with the John Howard Society, says the centre will be the perfect complement to the work his group does, which is working with people who have been convicted of an offence.
“Many of our population are homeless or at risk of being homeless, they’re leaving institutions or who may be out of institutions . . . this will be an area where they can come and access services (to help them re-integrate) into the community,’’ Doyle said.
Mike MacDonald, who runs the Upper Room Hospitality Ministry, said such a facility is a long time coming.
“We see people every day that we know just need a spot to come; need to get warm and stay dry,’’ MacDonald said.
Jess Macaulay, acting director of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Fitzroy Centre in Charlottetown, said the best part of the centre is the one-stop-shopping type approach it takes.
“We have various programs and we’re sending people in 10 different directions. But to have one spot for everyone to come to (where) you can access a variety of services is going to be huge for our members,’’ Macaulay said.