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Smith Lodge in Charlottetown to reopen as overnight transitional housing within weeks

Major Wayne Loveless, Charlottetown Homelessness Services; Lt. Emily Newbury, Corps officer and executive director of The Salvation Army in Charlottetown; and Minister of Social Development and Housing Ernie Hudson at Smith Lodge. Within weeks, Smith Lodge will be reopened as an overnight transitional housing complex. Initially, there will be nine beds for men. By spring, the province plans to open up a further 11 beds.
Major Wayne Loveless, Charlottetown Homelessness Services; Lt. Emily Newbury, Corps officer and executive director of The Salvation Army in Charlottetown; and Minister of Social Development and Housing Ernie Hudson at Smith Lodge. Within weeks, Smith Lodge will be reopened as an overnight transitional housing complex. Initially, there will be nine beds for men. By spring, the province plans to open up a further 11 beds. - Contributed
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

In the coming weeks, the Smith Lodge transitional unit housing complex will reopen in Charlottetown, for men in need of emergency and transitional housing.

Smith Lodge, which has been housing a daytime community outreach centre, will be opening nine transitional housing units by the end of the year, Social Development and Housing Minister Ernie Hudson told the legislature on Tuesday.

Hudson said Smith Lodge will also expand to a 20-unit facility in the spring. As of spring, 10 units are planned for men and 10 for women.

Although the facility will be offered for individuals in need of emergency housing, unlike a shelter, beds will be available for individuals for up to a year. The transitional housing units are intended to act as a bridge for individuals to find more permanent housing.

Hudson said the province has signed a three-year contract with the Salvation Army to operate the facility. The $3.7 million contract also includes provisions for the operation of the Bedford-MacDonald House shelter for men and the community outreach centre at Smith Lodge. 

Hudson said the initial goal was to fully open Smith Lodge earlier.

"If we weren't in the middle of a pandemic or had not experienced a pandemic, yes, we would have been in the position this fall for 20 transitional beds or units at Smith Lodge," Hudson said.

Smith Lodge had operated for 17 years as a private community care facility. It closed earlier this year but was reopened as the daytime community outreach

When asked why the units would be opening initially for men only, Hudson mentioned the capacity that exists for women’s shelters Blooming House and Anderson House in Charlottetown, as well as Chief Mary Bernard House in Lennox Island. He also pointed to the “physical layout, if you like, of the structure".

Following the announcement in the legislature by Hudson, Green MLA Hannah Bell said she was concerned about the lack of a gender focus in the initial announcement from Hudson. 

She noted that half the usage of the community outreach centre in Smith Lodge is used by men, half by women.

Bell has frequently called for sustained, multi-year funding for Blooming House, which operates in Charlottetown as a women’s only shelter. Blooming House received a grant of $120,000 from the provincial government under summer's operating budget, but also relies on community fundraising on a monthly basis in order to continue operating.

"You've got a really significant investment that is going to support, again, men's housing and men's shelters and Blooming House is sitting out on its own with only the 8 beds that they have. I'm really concerned about what message that sends," Bell said.

During question period on Tuesday, Liberal MLA Gord McNeilly raised concern about the capacity of shelter beds in Charlottetown. He noted that Bedford-MacDonald House had reduced its capacity of 10 beds plus two emergency beds to nine beds.

“What assurances can you provide Islanders who are worried that the shelter may be limited in the weeks and months to come?” McNeilly asked.

In response, Hudson said the number of beds in Bedford-MacDonald House were reduced to allow for physical distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stu Neatby is The Guardian's political reporter.

Twitter.com/stu_neatby

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