New social services hub in Charlottetown 'very busy' in first few days

A key staff member of the new community outreach centre on Euston Street in Charlottetown says he was "very, very surprised" by how quickly the centre became popular after it opened on Wednesday.

"Usually these things take a little word of mouth," said Mike Redmond, who manages the staff at the centre. "Generally it starts [as] a bit of a trickle, but right off the bat we were very, very busy in our first couple of days."

The space at 211 Euston St. is meant to bring together government and community services — such as employment, financial assistance counselling, food and housing — and make them more accessible to Islanders struggling with issues including homelessness, poverty or mental health. It is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

It also serves as a warming centre and a place where people can do their laundry, have a shower or access a telephone and computer.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

"It's met the expectations and needs of the community straight away," said Redmond, who is also residential manager at the men's homeless shelter Bedford MacDonald House.

Both men and women have used the facility for stays ranging from 15 minutes to two hours, Redmond said. About 70 people in all have passed through to take advantage of advice on housing and transportation, or just to get out of poor weather during the 16 centimetres of snow that fell on the city Sunday.

"There [were] a lot of people here at 8 a.m.," Redmond said. "There's not a lot of things available on a Sunday morning, so being able to have the facility open allows us the chance to get people out of the cold, a warm cup of coffee, do some laundry and generally just to be warm."

Redmond said there is sufficient staffing for the number of people so far, with two staff members on hand from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. A further 10 to 15 people are there for shorter amounts of time, including representatives from the Mi'kmaq Confederacy, the John Howard Society and the Canadian Mental Health Association.

"It's really a godsend," Redmond said.

The province has allocated about $50,000 to cover rent and operational costs until the pilot finishes on April 1 of this year.

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