'People not feeling safe' around Charlottetown Outreach Centre, says MLA

·3 min read
The government needs to add more services in support of the Outreach Centre, says Green MLA Karla Bernard. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)
The government needs to add more services in support of the Outreach Centre, says Green MLA Karla Bernard. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)

Charlottetown's Outreach Centre needs help, says local MLA Karla Bernard, and it may already be too late to build support for it in the community.

Bernard, the Green MLA for Charlottetown-Victoria Park, said neighbours are complaining about finding used needles, stolen bicycles, car break-ins, squatters in tents and people sleeping in apartment building hallways and laundry rooms.

"There's just a general feeling of people not feeling safe in their own community and it's not fair," she said.

"People are upset and rightly so."

The Outreach Centre was established on Euston Street in the old curling club about a year ago. It acts as a warming centre during the day, and also provides access to services such as career and mental health counselling. Management was taken over by the Adventure Group in March.

The centre provides a necessary service, said Bernard. The trouble is a lack of supporting services, such as low-cost housing and a supervised injection site, she said. She has confidence in the Adventure Group's ability to run the centre, she said, but there is nothing it can do about the other required services.

Centre having successes, says group

Roxanne Carter-Thompson, executive director of The Adventure Group, said it has been a little more than a month since the group took charge of the centre, and they are still building resources. More staff are in the process of being hired.

"We have experienced and witnessed the effort put forth by government and the dedicated staff that work within the departments," said Carter-Thompson, in an emailed statement to CBC News. "They are doing their best to ensure that we are supported with the resources that we need."

If he hears directly from the community, from residents in the area … maybe he'll start believing these are real issues. — Karla Bernard, MLA

But she acknowledged that lack of housing is a major barrier for improving the lives of some of the centre's clients.

At the same time, she said the centre has had some success in the six weeks since The Adventure Group took over, with jobs found for three clients, and another relocated to his previous home in eastern P.E.I.

Bernard is calling on Social Development Minister Brad Trivers to meet with the community of people using the centre to better understand what other services are needed, and with neighbours to hear their concerns. But she is worried it may already be too late to mend bridges in the neighbourhood.

"When I bring concerns to him he doesn't believe them," said Bernard.

"If he hears directly from the community, from residents in the area, the community of people accessing the services, maybe he'll start believing these are real issues."

The province issued a statement Tuesday saying it wanted to give The Adventure Group the time needed to establish themselves and strengthen services.

"We anticipate in the fall hosting another Open House, inviting the community to see and better understand the services provided at the centre," the statement said.

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