P.E.I's social development minister says changes are underway — with more to come — at the outreach centre in Charlottetown, now that the province has taken ownership of the former curling club.
The P.E.I. Community Outreach Centre offers support to people seeking financial assistance, counselling, employment, food and housing.
"It's a spot for people to go who are on the streets," said Social Development and Houseing Minister Brad Trivers. "So we want to make sure ... it's a comfortable space for them."
Construction of a new privacy fence is now underway to better separate the facility from nearby houses and apartments on Euston Street. A big priority is to make the building more accessible to people with disabilities, said Trivers.
"We want to address the accessibility issues. So we're looking at ramps and that sort of thing that will allow people to get into the first floor," said Trivers.
Contracts to go to tender
In addition to privacy fencing, future plans include the creation of "green space" in what is currently an asphalt parking lot in front of the two-storey red brick landmark.
Trivers said there are also plans to improve accessibility into the building and to create an additional green space out front.
"There's got to be room outside the centre for people to comfortably go for a smoke. There's a lot of clients that do smoke and they need a spot to do that," said Trivers.
The outreach centre also needs to be able to offer more counselling services, said Trivers.
The government is taking its lead from a working group of about 15 agencies that guide the centre's operations, according to the minister.
That working group includes the Canadian Mental Health Association, the John Howard Society, and the Native Council of P.E.I., among others.
Contracts for the renovation work will go to a public tender process. Costs of the various projects is still to be determined, said Trivers.
"We're going to make the change that needs to happen and we feel we have the money to do that," said Trivers.
The fate of the actual curling rinks in the former curling club remains uncertain. The concrete rink area is potentially high maintenance with no immediate functional purpose, according to the minister.
In the past, some neighbours had complained about disruptive behaviour from people using the facility, but an open house hosted by the outreach centre appears to have mended some fences, Trivers said.
"The vast majority of the feedback has been positive and we're going to continue to move forward in that direction," said Trivers.
He added the outreach centre may host another open house in the future.