Charlottetown police receiving complaints about people living in tents within city

·2 min read
There are at least two tents encampments in downtown Charlottetown. (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)
There are at least two tents encampments in downtown Charlottetown. (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)

Steve Wotton never imagined he'd end up living in a tent among some trees in downtown Charlottetown.

But there he is, surrounded by others who have fallen on hard times in what's known as tent city.

It's breakfast time. One is having a popsicle and Orange Crush.

"This is real life. This ain't camping out. This is living," Wotton said.

"We have no choice but to live this way because we have no … we have no one who wants to rent to us."

Many people don't want them in their current locations.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

Charlottetown police said they've received multiple complaints from city residents about people living out of tents trespassing on private land and littering.

In a statement provided to CBC, Chief Brad McConnell said the city is working with the province to "find solutions that will allow individuals using the temporary encampments to transition to more safe and stable alternatives."

"We cannot police our way out of social issues like homelessness. This is not just a policing issue, this is not just a city of Charlottetown issue and that is why it will require a collaborative approach."

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

Wotton, who used to train racehorses and now calls himself a "top-notch bottle collector," said he was forced to move into a tent after he couldn't find a shelter that would let him keep his medical service dog.

"You gotta do what you gotta do right? It's tough. Some of it can be OK."

"I got fortunate'

Some in the group, all men, have been living in tents off and on for a couple years.

Allan MacDonald used to be among them until he got a spot in a local shelter. He stopped by to visit his friends.

"I got fortunate. I got a place to go, so I got a roof over my head now, warm bed, clean clothes, white teeth. I wish we all could have that but ... there's not enough housing for everybody. And the little bit of housing that's out there has probably doubled in rent in the last year or two."

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

Months ago, the province suggested a new shelter for people experiencing homelessness might be open by this winter. But it was not mentioned in a joint statement issued by the Department of Social Development and Housing, Charlottetown Police Services and the City of Charlottetown.

"The Province and the City are working together to address concerns, connect with individuals occupying the temporary encampments and identify emergency and/or short term housing solutions, if required," the statement said.

"Creating access to safe affordable housing in our communities is a primary focus of all levels of government across our province."

Wotton said he hopes it comes soon.

"We're the same type of people. We're in trouble, and we need to get back up in our own society again."