Women staying longer at P.E.I. shelter because there's nowhere else to go, staff say

Staff at Blooming House, the women's shelter in Charlottetown, say they're seeing big demand for beds.

Some women staying at Charlottetown's Blooming House for months

door at Blooming House is shown, as well as a large decorative blue metal flower.
Blooming House is funded through government funding, other grants and donations. Last year, the province provided about $275,000 in funding. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Staff at Blooming House, the women's shelter in Charlottetown, say they're seeing big demand for beds.

Most nights, the P.E.I. shelter is either full or close to full — and many women are having to stay there for months because there's nowhere else to go.

Brynn Devine and Liz Corney co-founded Blooming House about four years ago. They say a lack of housing and space in addictions and mental health treatment programs means women have to stay longer at the shelter.

Corney, who works as director of development, said things are going well at the shelter in terms of dealing with the demand, but that it's too bad so many people need it. 

Brynn and Liz Corney, co-founders of Blooming House stand in the living room at the shelter.
Brynn Devine (left) and Liz Corney co-founded Blooming House in 2019. They knew there was a need, but are surprised with how much demand has increased lately. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"We're very busy. We've seen a steady incline over the last couple of years," said Corney. 

"We are seeing a lot of women need the service, and a lot of women coming back repeatedly."

Devine, the shelter's executive director, said they see a wide range in women — everyone from 18-year-olds up to senior citizens, people dealing with mental health or addictions, and people working who can't find or afford housing. 

It becomes almost precarious. We have no wiggle room.- Brynn Devine

"We're hovering very close to that full mark," she said.

"It becomes almost precarious. We have no wiggle room."

Devine said it's good to see women feeling comfortable using the service, and women wanting to stay on for long periods of time, but that it's not ideal considering it's supposed to be an emergency service which lets women stay from later afternoon to early morning hours. 

When it first opened in 2019, the eight-bed shelter was about half full, with most women staying from one night to two weeks. 

Lack of housing options

Staff said in the past they've been able to move some women on to more permanent housing, but it's getting much harder to find these days. 

"We're lacking in almost all of the housing options at this point," Devine said. 

Single bed shown in smaller bedroom at Blooming House.
Most nights, all the beds are taken at Blooming House. (Laura Meader/CBC)

She said other options needed to help women move on would include community care, live-in addiction care, mental health facilities, and affordable housing. 

"We're not seeing the ability to move women out of shelter quite as frequently as we used to be," she said. 

Devine said the demand feels extreme these days at the shelter, with some guests staying long periods or coming back over and over again. 

Future for Blooming House

Living room at Blooming House pictured, two large couches and coffee table as well as a decorative painting on one wall.
Blooming House opened in January 2019. (Laura Meader/CBC)

The founders of the shelter said funding has been stable, and donations to keep it going have been good. 

They currently have an agreement to keep using their current location until 2026, and believe it will likely be available beyond that. 

We're incredibly grateful for the people who have rallied behind us.- Liz Corney

It costs about $600,000 a year to operate the shelter, the provincial government provided about $275,000 last year. 

Devine and Corney are hoping at some point they might be able to expand their services, maybe add another location which could provide transitional housing for women that would provide services and full-time housing. 

"If we were to look way into the future, we would love to have that second stage," said Devine. 

Corney said it feels good that Blooming House has now existed for four years, and that community support has been good.

"I think Brynn and I both kind of look at it as we're really proud of what we've built, and we're incredibly grateful for the people who have rallied behind us." 


Laura Meader is a video journalist for CBC P.E.I.