Two new reports released Wednesday by the P.E.I. Department of Social Development and Housing show the province has years of work ahead as it tackles homelessness.
A community needs assessment on emergency shelters and a needs analysis of housing supports in Prince County outline what progress has been made, and where gaps in service are still leaving people on the streets.
"There have been huge changes to the housing industry and landscape in the last two years and even the last six months," Minister of Social Development and Housing Matthew MacKay said in a news release Thursday.
"Government has made record investments over the last two years to support Islanders needing access to emergency, supportive and transitional shelter. Through current and upcoming programs and services, we will continue to provide support to people that need it most."
Signs of progress listed in the reports included the Canadian Mental Health Association of P.E.I. developing a 28-unit, four-storey apartment complex on Fitzroy Street in Charlottetown, with the help of $2 million in provincial funding and $7.9 million from the federal rapid housing initiative. It is under construction and expected to open this fall.
Also mentioned was LifeHouse in Summerside, a now-opened emergency shelter for women and children in Prince County.
The province also reports more housing in O'Leary, Alberton, Tignish, Rustico, Montague and Souris.
As well, the province points out that in January, 4,000 Island households received an increase in social assistance payments.
More rent subsidies were also reported, with the province noting that the $40-million Canada Housing Benefit will provide 2,200 low-income Islanders with help to cover rent.
About 1,200 people are receiving mobile rent vouchers at the moment.
'People are forced to live in tents'
However, an affordable housing advocate in Charlottetown who reviewed the reports thought they missed the mark.
"People are forced to live in tents now and that's going to get worse and worse over time," said Connor Kelly, tenant network co-ordinator for the P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing and the Cooper Institute.
He said many Islanders are feeling pressure from rising house prices and rental costs, and throwing more money at the problem won't reverse that.
"It's just little Band-Aids that don't really stop the core issues," said Kelly.
"Rent is just going to keep going up the more housing is treated like a commodity …. It's more public housing or government regulation to cool the market that will bring rents back down or make people able to keep affording their homes."
The reports say 17 different agencies are involved in delivering housing solutions on P.E.I., and efforts are underway to streamline communications and record-keeping.
It says a men's shelter in Prince County still needs to be built, and a Housing Needs Assessment must be carried out in Kings County.