New social services hub to open in Charlottetown

A new community outreach centre that will cater to some of Charlottetown's most vulnerable and marginalized citizens will open its doors in downtown Charlottetown Wednesday.  

Earlier this month, the province announced plans to create a space 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. 

Organizers at the building at 211 Euston Street were busy Tuesday accepting donations, unloading furniture and getting the centre ready. 

"We have to focus on the needs of our most vulnerable," said P.E.I.'s Minister of Social Development and Housing Ernie Hudson. 

"It does give us that opportunity as a department, in conjunction with our partners, to see just what needs are being met here and what needs may have been overlooked."

Bathroom, shower and laundry

In addition to serving as a warming centre and a place to connect people with community services, the centre will also be a place where people can do their laundry, have a shower and access a telephone and computer. 

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

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

The centre will be managed by staff from men's homeless shelter Bedford MacDonald House.

Officials say at least two employees will be on site at all times to welcome people and direct them to the appropriate resources.

People using the centre will be asked to provide feedback so the province can understand who is using the centre and what else they may need, said Hudson.

'One-stop shop'

The centre was developed and will be overseen by 10 government and community partners including P.E.I.'s Department of Social Development and Housing, Health PEI, the John Howard Society, the Upper Room Food Bank, Blooming House women's shelter, the Salvation Army and others.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

Jess MacAulay, acting director with the Canadian Mental Health Association's Fitzroy Centre, said having access to a range of services under one roof should help people to address more than one barrier at a time.  

"Individuals may have a variety of issues that they need to address, and sometimes it can be overwhelming — when you're sent to 10 different organizations to receive a service for 10 different issues or barriers that you're trying to overcome," said MacAulay.

"To have access to all these services, and also other people that have had lived experience as well, I just think that all of it will be extremely positive and I think that we'll connect a lot of people to the services they need even more so than we already are."

She said with the current housing crisis in P.E.I., groups that support vulnerable people and populations are busier than ever, and she's proud of the collaboration and the speed at which the new centre came together. 

"We're seeing more families, more children, and people with more complex issues that need more wraparound services that all of these non-profits will be able to bring," said MacAulay.  

The centre will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

"We're very excited to continue this collaboration," said MacAulay. "And provide the services in a one-stop shop spot for all the same and similar individuals that we're all working with."

Officials with the province say the working group will monitor the success of the centre throughout the pilot, and meet once it is done to determine what will happen next.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

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