Dismantling of Charlottetown encampment delayed for second day

Housing Minister says cleanup could begin as early as Wednesday, after a notice to vacate was issued by the fire department last Friday.

Fire officials issued notice to vacate last week due to 'ongoing fire hazards'

Man dressed in winter wear lifts up a tarp at a tent encampment in Charlottetown
Jamie Baker's church donated hats, mittens and boots, as well as a furnace, to help people living at the encampment stay warm. (Aaron Adetuyi/CBC)

Plans to take down the tent encampment at the Charlottetown Event Grounds have been delayed for a second day due to poor weather conditions.

Jamie Baker visited the encampment site throughout the day on Tuesday, waiting for cleanup to begin. He says he tried to get information from authorities about plans to dismantle the site, but had trouble getting details.

"I've been making phone calls and dropping in offices and it was supposed to happen a couple of different times," he said. 

"And the latest I heard today was that they were going to start at noon."

Baker's church previously donated a wood furnace to the site to help those staying at the encampment keep warm. He said if the site was going to be dismantled, he wanted to make sure the furnace wasn't thrown out.

"I live nearby, so I thought I'd check because I need a loader or a few people to help me get that furnace back on my truck," he said.

"We'll have to get it back or it'll get bulldozed or lost."

Housing Minister Matthew MacKay says he hopes to have a 24/7 homeless shelter open by next winter. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Fire officials issued a notice to vacate the encampment last week due to "ongoing fire hazards." 

That notice required all personal belongings to be removed by Monday, but plans were delayed due to stormy conditions. Housing Minister Matthew MacKay said Tuesday the encampment will be dismantled as early as Wednesday. 

"Everybody's been patient to get us up and going on Park Street, and now that we're there, it's time to move the tent encampment out of there," said MacKay. 

MacKay said the few people who were previously sleeping overnight at the encampment are now staying in the emergency shelters units on nearby Park Street.

But MLA Karla Bernard, Opposition critic for social development and housing, said she's been told people are still living at the encampment. She said they tried calling the shelter line to book beds at the Park Street facility, but were turned away because the units were full. 

"It's not working for people, and if something bad happens — if someone loses their life over that — who ultimately is responsible?" she said. "We have a lot of work to do as a province." 

MacKay said that type of work is already underway.

"We know that Park Street is a Band-Aid fix," he said. 

"It's not perfect by no means yet. But it is going to fill the void, for the winter, for what we need it to do until we can get our bigger plan going." 

MacKay said he hopes to have a 24/7 shelter operating by next winter to ensure the province is not in the same situation by this time next year.

With files from Wayne Thibodeau


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