Park Street neighbours hope mobile units for homeless people are well managed

·3 min read
Park Street neighbours hope mobile units for homeless people are well managed

Some people who live on Park Street in Charlottetown say they wish they had been notified about the mobile housing units that will be installed near them this fall, but they told CBC News they understand the need.

Resident Jake McAleer said it's important for the province to help the people who have been living in five tent encampments around Charlottetown this summer.

"I think it's a good idea. It's getting people off the street and helping them not freeze in the winter," said McAleer.

"If it means that people have somewhere to be that's warm, that's great," he said, noting many people are struggling to find affordable housing on the Island at the moment.

"As long as things are being kept neat and tidy, and it's not drawing the wrong crowd, I'm not going to have an issue with it."

However, McAleer and other residents said it would have been nice to receive a notice in the mailbox, explaining what would be happening in the neighbourhood tucked between Hillsborough Bridge and the Eastlink Centre.

The provincial government has ordered between 40 and 50 small housing units, with shared washroom facilities, to be set up in the parking lot of the COVID-19 testing site on Park Street as early as mid-November. The overall cost is expected to be about $1.2 million.

'It's something that has to happen'

Chris Beaton also lives on Park Street, and he too told CBC he sympathizes with the city's homeless population, estimated at around 80 people right now.

He said he believes neighbours weren't consulted because everyone would have said no.

"There's a big need for it. Nobody wants it in their neighbourhood, but this is where it's going to go this year, I guess," said Beaton.

He hopes there is some kind of control over when people using the units can come and go, "so people aren't roaming around the streets at night time."

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Other residents who did not want to do recorded interviews told CBC they were worried about the safety of their neighbourhood, citing problems other areas of Charlottetown have seen with discarded needles, thefts, and trespassing, especially near the Community Outreach Centre.

'Quick' fix was needed

On Tuesday, P.E.I.'s minister of social development and housing told CBC News "something quick" was needed to help Charlottetown's homeless population before winter sets in.

Matthew MacKay said the Park Street site was picked because it's on a suitably large piece of government land in a part of the city with social services providers nearby.

The minister said his officials had discussed the plan with Charlottetown Police Services, Maritime Electric, Holland College and the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Questions remain about how the units, and who will be responsible for managing the site. Also, it is unclear who will be eligible to stay in the units and whether any services, such as mental health and addictions support, will be provided.

Those details are expected to be worked out in the coming weeks while government officials work on a long-term solution.

Application to come before council

Late Wednesday, Charlottetown's acting chief administrative officer sent an email to CBC News about the city's role in the plans.

"The city received a temporary use application from the P.E.I. Housing Corporation late in the evening on Monday, Sept. 12, and has notified property owners within 100 metres of the area as per our Zoning and Development Bylaw," Donna Waddell wrote.

"It is anticipated that this item will be brought to the planning board meeting on Oct. 3 and to council for consideration on Oct. 11."

Meanwhile, the residents of the "tent cities" continue to be wary of speaking to the media on the record. However, on Wednesday, some told CBC News they are pleased something is being done to address their situation — and they are looking forward to having access to running water and a bathroom.