Charlottetown emergency shelter will open 'any day now,' says minister
‘I wish that I knew how to work an excavator,’ Matthew MacKay tells CBC
P.E.I. Housing Minister Matthew MacKay is unable to provide an exact date when an emergency shelter for homeless people will open, but he says it will be very soon.
"It's any day here now. We run into a few issues," MacKay told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier Wednesday morning.
"[My staff are] not giving an exact date. They want to be sure when they do. All I'm being told is it's very soon."
The province began the process of buying, shipping and installing the modular units in late August. They were originally scheduled to be open in mid-November, and then at the end of November.
But there have been delays, said MacKay. There was trouble involving the City of Charlottetown rezoning process. Some contractors were late coming to the project, and that led to a delay of about a week.
Then some unexpected excavation work was required, and crews had trouble locating the water and sewer connections to hook them up to the pre-built units.
Some hard rain this month also contributed a few days of delay.
The work was contracted out because Department of Transportation staff were still cleaning up Fiona debris, MacKay said.
"This was a very aggressive plan. We started this at the end of August and obviously we were hoping to have these up and going now. It's not a big delay, but it's definitely a delay," he said.
"I wish that I could snap my fingers and make this happen. I wish that I knew how to work an excavator and I could be down there working myself."
The facility will provide overnight beds for up to 51 people, but it will be open only from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., with clients expected to be up and out during the day.
MacKay said he is working toward a shelter available 24/7, to be open before next winter.
Housing officials announced Tuesday that the opening would not happen on Nov. 30 as scheduled.
Green Party housing critic Karla Bernard said the work was taking too long, and the shelter plan itself needed revising. She said the opening hours should be longer, and there will be issues with accessibility.
The government needs to spend more time talking to people who are homeless about what they need, Bernard said.
The matter is urgent, with colder weather on the way and a wind and rain storm coming Wednesday night.
MacKay said more hotel rooms have been booked Wednesday night for people requiring shelter, and anyone needing a space should call the shelter line to arrange it.
With files from Island Morning