Prince Edward Island government says it is taking action to prevent people struggling with housing from having to queue in the cold for hours on end to access shelter beds .
At a meeting of the Standing Committee on Health and Social Development on Wednesday, government officials said the plan was to implement a hotline so potential clients of shelters can book a bed in advance instead. queuing for hours, often causing them to miss out on a hot meal at the nearby soup kitchen, which operates at the same times that customers often wait for a bed for the night.
“Bed reservations will be done through the Shelter Help Line,” said Shelley Cole, Manager of Supportive Housing with the PEI Department of Social Development and Housing. É.
“People who access services at the Community Outreach Center and through our partner organizations across the community will be able to help clients call to reserve their beds.
Cole said the policy is still in the developmental stage.
However, opposition MP Karla Bernard is concerned that not everyone will be able to access the service.
“Hopefully we will have metrics that we are going to put in place to measure whether we are reaching all customers, because when we offer a service like this, what we do know is that it can cause problems. ‘fairness,’ Bernard said following the committee meeting.
“Do people have access to a telephone? How do they collect their information? How do they know [the service] even exists? “
New awareness post
Bernard said she was excited to hear about new supports, including a community outreach worker hired through the PEERS Alliance to help fill some of the gaps in shelters and housing.
“She actually brings emergency kits to people who live in tents,” Bernard said. “I hope that as a province when we use words like harm reduction we understand what it means.
During the committee meeting, Cole highlighted some things the ministry has done and plans to do to address shelter issues.
A new women’s shelter, Lifehouse, is slated to open in Summerside in early 2022 and the department is also working to establish a men’s shelter in the Prince County area within the next year, Cole said.
She said in the coming weeks the province will consider whether to add beds at Deacon House in Charlottetown, an emergency shelter that currently has eight beds for men struggling with substance abuse issues.
People still live in tents, opposition says
But Bernard said even with two extra beds opened in inclement weather at Bedford MacDonald House, a men’s shelter in Charlottetown, the province still does not have enough accommodation capacity.
“We still have people living in tents. We don’t understand the problem, we haven’t recognized a problem. So we don’t have enough accommodation beds in Prince Edward Island, ”said Bernard.
Accommodation capacity :
|Chief Mary Bernard Women’s Shelter||Lennox Island||Women & Children||12|
|Anderson House||Charlottetown||Women & Children||18|
|Bedford MacDonald House||Charlottetown||Men||
|House of deacons||Charlottetown||Men||8|
* Emergency beds (source: PEI Department of Housing and Social Development)
Committee chair, Liberal MP Gord McNeilly, highlighted recommendations from a 2019 emergency shelter needs assessment.
“They say 24 hour coverage is important. They say case management is important. And they say wrap-around services,” McNeilly said.
He expressed concern that Bedford MacDonald House is no longer operating 24 hours a day and pointed to what he called “huge gaps” in accommodation services.
“Hosting services need to last 24 hours, they need to offer daytime programming, and they need enveloping services,” Bernard agreed. “Two and a half years [after the report], we are no further ahead. “
During the meeting, Cole confirmed that there were only two 24/7 shelters in Prince Edward Island: Anderson House and Chief Mary Bernard Memorial Women’s Shelter in Lennox Island.
These shelters are for women and children, and Cole said that sometimes single women or those with drug addictions don’t get along well with some of the family clients.
Cole said the hope is also to expand services at the Chief Mary Bernard Shelter by opening up services to non-Indigenous women and Indigenous women who do not live on Lennox Island.