Charlottetown's 'tent cities' highlight need for more shelter, advocates say

·2 min read
Charlottetown council passed a resolution to clean up the encampment on the property of the Christian Reform Church. (Kirk Pennell/CBC - image credit)
Charlottetown council passed a resolution to clean up the encampment on the property of the Christian Reform Church. (Kirk Pennell/CBC - image credit)

Chris Clay has visited Charlottetown's "tent cities" many times over the summer to make sure the people living there have the supplies they need to survive.

Clothes, blankets, food, water — as well as clean needles and smoking supplies.

And not just for clients of the Native Council of P.E.I, where Clay works as the co-ordinator of the Reaching Home project.

"Anyone who's struggling or homeless at the moment, we supply them."

Weeks ago, there were more than 20 people living in an encampment on the property of the Christian Reform Church, he said. Many have now moved to other sites.

On Monday night, Charlottetown City Council passed a resolution to clean up the site "in accordance with the terms of the Dangerous, Hazardous and Unsightly bylaw."

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

It's unclear whether that could mean anyone still living there will be evicted. One person who was at the site Wednesday said the church has been kind, offering help and clean water, but he suspects that those living there have outstayed their welcome.

'Shelters are full'

If they are evicted, Clay is concerned about where they will go.

P.E.I.s homeless population is growing quickly, Clay said, and when the shelters open at 8 a.m., they're usually all booked up within five minutes.

"We're seeing, say on average, 40 or 50 people consistently sleeping out on the streets. All the shelters in the city are full right now. So those are 40 to 50 beds we're lacking already."

Kirk Pennell/CBC
Kirk Pennell/CBC

Green Party MLA Karla Bernard said the situation highlights the need for more affordable housing on P.E.I.

"That does not even begin to tell the story of what people are facing right now," she said.

"And we're hearing pleas even from people who are running food banks across the province, who are saying there are people who are living at the beach, there are people who are living under bridges. So this is not just a Charlottetown problem."

Meeting on Thursday

Charlottetown's mayor and the province's minister of social development will meet Thursday to discuss the issue.

They have pledged to help those living in encampments move to a safer alternative, but with shelters full, finding that place could be a challenge.

Kirk Pennell/CBC
Kirk Pennell/CBC