Buildings have arrived, but no operator yet for Summerside emergency shelter

Modular buildings that will be used as an emergency shelter in Summerside have arrived — but they aren’t set up for operation yet, the P.E.I. government says. The province’s Housing, Land and Communities Minister Rob Lantz said back in November that he wanted the shelter to be open before winter set in.However, nearly a month into spring, the shelter still isn’t open to support those struggling with homelessness in the Prince County city and the surrounding area. “I find it extremely disappointing, here we are halfway through the month of April. I have not heard any updates as to an opening date or who will be operating the new shelter,” said Elysha Whitlock, who runs The Village, a volunteer group that provides winterized tents and hot foot to members of the homeless community in the area.”My hope is we are not in the same position for next winter.”‘I have not heard any updates as to an opening date or who will be operating the new shelter,’ says Elysha Whitlock, who runs The Village in Summerside. (Tony Davis/CBC)That’s also the hope of Summerside Mayor Dan Kutcher.Back in January, Summerside council voted 6-2 to establish a 10-bed emergency shelter in the city, with conditions. Those conditions are that the provincial government provide a site plan, a security plan and establish an operator for the facility.”We’ve been waiting to hear back from the province [about] who they are looking to select as an operator,” Kutcher said. “It sounds like the money is there to do it, and the bump in the road here is finding the right operator, and that’s really with the province.”WATCH | Province still can’t find operator for Summerside shelter:Province still can’t find operator for Summerside shelterAn emergency shelter in Summerside, P.E.I., that the province hoped to have in place before winter still hasn’t opened. With April halfway over, advocates are wondering what’s up with the delays. CBC’s Tony Davis reports.Wednesday, Lantz told CBC News that the province is about to start the process of applying for a building permit with the city and will issue a request for proposals soon to find a contractor to set up the shelter.He said the site plan will be addressed in the building permit process, and that a security plan will be “part and parcel” of the site design. Lantz acknowledged that it’s been a difficult process to find an operator for the shelter, but that the province hopes to find one soon. “We are at the point that we should be able to finalize an operator here shortly, and if all things come together we’ll get this shelter up and running very soon,” he said.”I had hoped we would have it sooner than now. We’ve had some issues along the way, but we’ve been able to accommodate people who require shelter in the Summerside area … through our shelter support line and by using various resources in the community to put roofs over peoples’ heads who require it.”      ‘The struggle doubles’ in the winterThroughout the winter, Whitlock provided insulated tents to those who didn’t want to access other shelter services.”After struggling through the last two to three months of winter conditions, it is having a drastic effect on people’s mental health,” she said. “The struggle basically doubles when you add a Canadian winter to the mix.”Whitlock has concerns about those sleeping in tents. Despite the dangers, some used propane heaters to stay warm, she said. It is by the grace of God and pure luck we have not lost anybody on Prince Edward Island this winter.— Elysha Whitlock”It is by the grace of God and pure luck we have not lost anybody on Prince Edward Island this winter,” she said.This past winter, Lantz said no Islanders should have to sleep in tents and urged those struggling to contact the province’s shelter support line. However, sometimes those in Summerside who want to access emergency shelters are transported to the Park Street Emergency Shelter in Charlottetown, and Whitlock said that doesn’t work for everyone.”Wrap-around services and all affiliated resources should be available in the person’s community in which they reside,” she said.”One important aspect that’s being missed here is that there are many different resources that are already established in Summerside. We may be crossing one or two things off the list by relocating them to Charlottetown, but what about the people who are already set up with mental health and addictions counselling in Summerside?”The site of the proposed shelter on Frank Mellish Drive is pictured here. It’s close to Summerset Manor and the Prince County Hospital. (City of Summerside)Whitlock said if the province has issues securing an operator, it should run the shelter on its own in the interim.”In between that city council meeting and where we sit today, there really is no excuse not to have the answers,” Whitlock said.There also has been some pushback on the location of the shelter, 25 Frank Mellish St., which is near Prince County Hospital and Summerset Manor, a long-term care facility.Some in the community have said they are worried about the service bringing along other issues, drawing parallels to the Community Outreach Centre in Charlottetown. That centre has now moved to Park Street, but during its time on Euston Street some who lived in the area complained about public drug use, discarded needles and property damage.”I understand, I appreciate and I respect the opinions of other community members when it comes to being a little hesitant to have an emergency shelter, especially when we are discussing a low-barrier shelter,” Whitlock said, adding that anywhere a shelter goes, complaints and concerns are likely to come with it.A low-barrier shelter means people who are under the influence can access services, but they can’t consume drugs or alcohol on site.”Our main resources for mental health and addiction help in Summerside are located in the Prince County Hospital,” Whitlock said. “I keep hearing people preach that we need to get all the people in the homeless community set up with the proper resources and services.”We are about to put the emergency shelter in the backyard of those much needed services — how can we argue that that’s not the right location?”She believes if the province acts quickly enough to establish the emergency shelter, Summerside will have a good shot at drastically cutting down on homelessness before the issue becomes too big.

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