PEI

Downtown Charlottetown Inc. looking to fill vacant street navigator position

Downtown Charlottetown Inc. is looking to hire a new street navigator to help with outreach in the community.

Former street navigator Tami MacIntyre moves onto new job

'Panhandling is an ongoing situation and I think it's just something that we have to accept going forward but we don't have to accept that people need to be in this situation,' says Dawn Alan, executive director of Downtown Charlottetown Inc. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Downtown Charlottetown Inc. is looking for a new street navigator to help with outreach in the community, after the person previously in the position moved onto another job.

The navigator aims to help homeless people and panhandlers by making personal connections, helping them access services, helping with resumes, finding jobs or housing solutions as well as simpler things like warm clothes or even a haircut if needed.

"We find out who they are, where they came from, what their needs are, what it would take to get them to the next step in their life," said Dawn Alan, executive director of Downtown Charlottetown Inc.

"Then we act as the bridge in order to get them to the services that they need to get to that more fulfilling place in life."

Panhandling is an ongoing situation and I think it's just something that we have to accept going forward but we don't have to accept that people need to be in this situation.— Dawn Alan, Downtown Charlottetown Inc.

Alan says that over the past year, the street navigator assisted around a dozen people transition to more stable surroundings.

They are now in the process of finding someone for the role after the previous navigator, Tami MacIntyre, moved on to another job in the community.

The role is funded through Downtown Charlottetown Inc. and the City of Charlottetown.

'We need the help'

The navigator position is aimed at helping people like Cory Morrissey, who figures he spends around eight hours most days asking for spare change.

"I'm doing this, I need food, I need a place to stay," he said. He said finding affordable and available housing is one of his biggest problems right now.

'I'm doing this, I need food, I need a place to stay,' says Cory Morrissey. (Laura Meader/CBC)

He does receive some money through social assistance, but said panhandling is an important part of his day, when every cent counts.

"I don't mind it that much. I get to see everybody go by, get to meet new people and to hear what is going on right now," Morrissey said. "It gets the word out that people are homeless. We need the help."

'An issue that we have to deal with'

"Panhandling is an ongoing situation and I think it's just something that we have to accept going forward but we don't have to accept that people need to be in this situation," Alan said. 

Mayor Philip Brown said the city would look at continued funding for the program and hopes to have more collaboration with all levels of government on a more permanent solution. 

Dawn Alan, executive director of Downtown Charlottetown Inc., says that a dozen people since June 2018 have found housing solutions — thanks in part to the work of the street navigator. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"Poverty is here. It's not just on the streets, it's in the neighbourhoods so what you see on the streets is a reflection of what's going on in our society in general," Brown said.

"I see it every day that I'm walking anywhere in the city, so it is an issue that we have to deal with and I think Downtown Charlottetown Inc.'s navigator program is part of that."

'We can embrace 12 people'

Alan said that the navigator position isn't an easy job, but she is confident they will be able to find someone to take on the role.

She estimates that there are about a dozen regulars on the streets on average and compared to the situation in other cities, Charlottetown is lucky.

Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown says he would like to see more collaboration between the different levels of government to find more long-term solutions. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"In other cities, panhandling situations are insurmountable, you couldn't ever think to help everyone that's involved in street activities to that level, but here, we can embrace 12 people," Alan said.

"There's a solution for each of them, we live in P.E.I. and there's opportunity and services available that we want to make sure that everyone is aware of and that we help them get to those services."

Alan said they hope to the provincial government will see the value of the program and provide more support in the future.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Laura Meader

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