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EDITORIAL: Support essential

Almost Home, Sydney’s first shelter for women, has housed more than 400 women since it was opened by the Every Woman’s Centre in 1997.
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It’s about time.

The announcement that Charlottetown is getting another women’s shelter after a seven-year absence is definitely good news.

Even Family and Human Services Minister Tina Mundy couldn’t explain why there’s been a seven-year gap between Grandmother’s House, which closed in 2012, and the newly opened Blooming House.

are the options available right now for homeless people on P.E.I. In December, the province launched an emergency shelter pilot project that involved putting homeless Islanders in hotel rooms. This, along with Blooming House once it opens later this month, will complement other options – Anderson House, the Chief Mary Bernard Memorial Women’s Shelter in Prince County and the men’s only Bedford MacDonald House emergency shelter operated by the Salvation Army.

The organizers appeared happy and excited at a media event on Tuesday about the arrangement, which will provide a warm and safe nightly place for up to eight women to stay from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Even so, it’s fair to point out that more should have been done by the province, and sooner.

The $60,000 in funding to help get the project up and running is part of the province’s Housing Action Plan, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the overall $1.98 billion budget this year, and the past couple of budgets in the area of $1.7 billion and $1.8 billion. So, the money’s been there for a while.

It’s also a bit curious to present this as a pilot project because it implies some doubt over the shelter’s long-term future. Let’s be clear – this is something that should be a permanent fixture with predictable, annual funding so the shelter doesn’t have to worry about shutting down due to finances. Give staff the salaries to keep them long term as well as the financial resources to succeed. After all, a shelter isn’t a money-making venture. It’s reliant on the province and other levels of government as well as the community to be successful.

The Guardian isn’t disclosing the location of the new shelter, other than to say it isn’t downtown. It is going to be operated out of a structure rent-free until the end of April, which is a good deal.

But if the pilot project is looking to measure demand for the shelter’s services, then locating it far from downtown may not be the best idea. It makes more sense to provide a convenient option for homeless women to drop in or stay by referral by locating the shelter downtown.

Perhaps we can learn a few lessons from Grandmother’s House. It was located downtown on Euston Street. And, let’s remember that Grandmother’s House didn’t close because of lack of demand. It closed because of lack of funding.

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