First beds open at Charlottetown emergency shelter
Modular buildings also offer laundry, storage and bathroom facilities
The first 25 beds at Charlottetown's Park Street Emergency Shelter will open Friday evening at 8 p.m., providing overnight shelter to Islanders experiencing homelessness.
The shelter, announced by Housing Minister Matthew MacKay in September, was originally slated to open by mid-November. That timeline was later shifted to allow for construction and assembly of the modular units.
"Safety is the focus. We are really trying to balance that need to meet people where they're at and have a safe operation," said Shelley Cole, manager of housing services with the provincial Department of Social Development and Housing.
The other 25 beds will open on Friday, Dec. 16.
The shelter will be open daily from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Those who stay there will have access to laundry facilities, storage, showers and breakfast options. All services are gender-inclusive, with options for couples, and for people in need of shelter who have pets.
People in need of shelter can book a bed at the site by calling the Shelter Support Line at 1-833-220-4722 or by coming in there in person. Beds can be booked for up to 30 days at one time.
Those with pets will be asked to explore other options first if they can, said Cole.
"This will be sort of a place of last resort with respect to pets. And pets need to be able to be safely accommodated with their owner," she said.
Steve Wotton, who has been living at the tent encampment in Charlottetown, plans to sleep in the new units Friday night.
Wotton said he's grateful the shelter accepts pets.
"It feels great, you know, my dog is safe and I have a shelter where I can go with her. She likes being around me. When we are not around each other it is just misery," he said.
Staff on-site all night
There are 24 staff at the shelter, said Cole, including licensed practical nurses and people with extensive experience in mental health and addictions.
People staying at the units will be able to come and go as they choose, with staff on-site through the night, she said.
There is a list of what people can take into their rooms with them, but clients can also store items.
"Anything that sort of falls outside of this list ... they'll be asked to store in a locker that will be provided," said Cole.
MLAs toured the site Friday morning.
"While work on site is still ongoing, the initial module is ready to go and is warm, welcoming and well equipped," Green MLA Hannah Bell tweeted Friday morning.
"This project came to life faster than any other housing initiative in recent years, opening in less than 60 days from the time the modules arrived on site from western Canada," said MacKay in a press release.
"Everyone deserves to have access to a warm place to sleep at night and Park Street shelter will help to provide space to more people in need of support," said MacKay.
Shelter staff are holding two open houses for residents in the community to come and tour the building and ask questions, said Cole.
The first open house was today and the second one is Saturday between 10 a.m. and noon.
With files from Tony Davis