It's been just over a month since new emergency shelter units opened in Charlottetown, and provincial staff say operations are humming along as they serve people who have run out of housing options on the Island.
"Things are going very well here at Park Street," said Shelley Cole, manager of housing services with the Department of Social Development and Housing, which manages the site near the P.E.I. Government Garage.
"I think people are very pleased with the welcoming environment. They are feeling that we are really working hard to offer a client-centred service, to meet the clients where they are," said Cole.
The shelter is seeing an average of 40 beds filled per night out of its total of 50 available spaces, said Cole, and many people are booking the maximum of 30 nights at a time.
"They're pleased that they have the ability to book those beds in advance, to know that they have a warm, safe, dry space to be at nighttime," said Cole.
Many of the people signing up for the spaces had spent the summer and fall living in tents or lean-tos throughout Charlottetown, with the largest encampment cropping up at the Charlottetown Event Grounds.
Shelter users have told staff they appreciate being able to store their belongings for longer periods of time, said Cole.
The units are open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. and clients must leave the premises during the day, but they can store belongings there 24/7.
The majority of the shelter's bookings are coming through the shelter support line, said Cole, and so far there have been no concerns about the shelter being over capacity.
The shelter is still working to get its accessible units up and running for people with physical mobility challenges.
They will include extra space for those using a wheelchair or mobility device, as well as accessible bathtubs.
There is last-minute work being done on those units, said Cole, but she hopes they will be available next week.
"We're working closely with the contractor and it certainly is a priority for us to get those units open and available," she said.
Connecting people to support
Work is also underway on a covered canopy outside the shelter's entrance, so that those lining up to book a bed don't have to stand in the snow or rain.
Cole said a some people first booked a bed on Dec. 9 and are still staying at the shelter.
"As their 30-day period or 30-night period came to a close, we renewed those availabilities for those individuals," she said.
"That includes meeting with them to be sure that the service is still meeting their needs and, you know, how we can work on an individualized case plan, making sure those individuals are connected to other supports and services in the community."
Though they are working to make the shelter service the best it can be, Cole said another priority is helping people find more stable, secure housing for themselves.
"Our hope for all of the clients who come here is to get them accessed and connected to the supports and services that they need, which include long-term suitable housing solutions."