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Community Outreach Centre set to move after City of Charlottetown decision

The Community Outreach Centre was established at what had been the Charlottetown Curling Club in June 2021, and its operation was taken over by the Adventure Group in April 2022. (Kevin Yarr/CBC - image credit)
The Community Outreach Centre was established at what had been the Charlottetown Curling Club in June 2021, and its operation was taken over by the Adventure Group in April 2022. (Kevin Yarr/CBC - image credit)

Charlottetown city council voted for a temporary use variance for the Community Outreach Centre Monday night, allowing a move to Park Street, but the province will have to meet some conditions.

Council voted 6-5, during a special council meeting, with Mayor Philip Brown breaking a tie. The province will have to meet some conditions.

The plan is to run the centre out of two connected modular units along the southwestern portion of the property that currently holds the emergency shelter.

"It's a temporary variance which means it is for one year, 12 months, 365 days. And we will be watching it closely," said Brown.

'Tonight was checking off a couple boxes so we can move on,' says Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown about council voting to close an investigation into financial concerns raised in a forensic audit by BDO last year.
'Tonight was checking off a couple boxes so we can move on,' says Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown about council voting to close an investigation into financial concerns raised in a forensic audit by BDO last year.

Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown says he was happy about how compassionately council spoke about the issues concerning the outreach centre. (Tony Davis/CBC)

"I looked at some of the positives, the shortcoming and the neutral areas. And the neutrals and the positives outweighed the shortcomings."

Brown said he has been doing a lot of research on the subject speaking with mayors of municipalities across the country on their approach.

Brown also looked at the issue through the lens of land use, he said.

"As a municipal government our responsibility is to go to our planners. Our professional planners and ask them, 'Is this a land use option for this type of use,' and the recommendation form our professional planner was yes," Brown said.

The mayor said he was pleased about how compassionately council spoke about the issues concerning the outreach centre.

The chamber was packed with Charlottetown residents who often clapped when a point was made about services at the outreach centre being inadequate.

Every councillor spoke to the motion, whether they were for or against, most of them noted problems with how the centre has been run.

Justin Muttart is counllior for Ward 2, the ward the outreach centre will be moved to. (Submitted)

The Community Outreach Centre was established at what had been the Charlottetown Curling Club on Euston Street in June 2021, and its operation was taken over by the Adventure Group in April 2022. The centre offers services to those facing homelessness, such as connecting them to housing or shelter options. The centre also provides harm reduction supplies, such as clean needles, for those struggling with addiction.

The centre will be moved to Coun. Justin Muttart's ward.

"I stand before you this evening to ask that you consider the current outreach centre models negative impact on our city and if moved to Park Street it will likely continue and maybe even worsen," Muttart said, during the special council meeting.

For years residents who live near the outreach centre have complained about an increase in public drug use, threats and property damage since the centre was established in the neighbourhood. Muttart worries similar issues could be brought to Park Street.

"Relocating is just the lift and shift approach pushing problems from one area to another. If the outreach centre is relocated that will be the fifth time in a few short years. This tells us that the issues and problems associated with the outreach centre in our city need to be seriously addressed and a more permanent plan is what should have been presented to planning board and council," Muttart said during the council meeting.

Park Street Emergency Shelter in Charlottetown, P.E.I. Jan 13. 2022
Park Street Emergency Shelter in Charlottetown, P.E.I. Jan 13. 2022

The outreach centre will move near the Park Street Emergency Shelter. (Tony Davis/CBC)

Muttart also noted there is a concentration of services happening at Park Street. Right now there is an emergency shelter, soon to be an outreach centre and the province has previously put in an application to the city to allow a supervised injection site to be run on the property. That plan was voted down by council.

Coun. Norman Beck agreed the outreach centre is not working in its current location.

"I see this as an opportunity for a reset," Beck said during the Monday's council meeting.

Beck believes the hiring of Carlene Donnelly, who has 30 years of social service experience, as an advisor to help the premier and cabinet review programs and services for vulnerable Islanders, means services offered at the centre could change, he said.

"There have already been some changes that have been implemented and moving it down to Park Street would provide the opportunity to look at delivering the services in a different, more of a transactional, manner to allow for inflow, to allow for control of how people are moving and what the centre is actually being used for," Beck said at the council meeting.

"It has not worked where it currently is. This is an opportunity to do it differently."

In light of the problems at its current locations, council laid out conditions the province would have to meet at the new location. Those conditions include

  • Province provides funding for two additional police officers to monitor the area.

  • Province install a fire sprinkler system within the building being used as an outreach centre.

  • Province funds and operates daily garbage clean up.

  • Any future applications form the province will fully comply with requirements set out in Charlottetown's official plan.

"These will be watched very closely, because we are not just talking about the safety and security of one group, we are talking safety and security of all," Brown said.

Mitch Tweel
Mitch Tweel

'What the community has been through the last three years has been not only unacceptable. It’s been horrifying. It’s been a nightmare,' says Coun. Mitch Tweel. (Aaron Adetuyi/CBC)

Coun. Mitch Tweel has spoken about open drug use, trespassing and threats in his ward since the centre has been operating on Euston Street.

"My heart goes out to the residents who live on Beach Street, Park Street, Kensington Road, Belmont, Esher, Edward Street. My heart goes out to them," Tweel said.

"For the past three years the outreach centre operating and functioning on Euston Street has had a devastating impact and effect on the community," he said, adding the location was between two city schools and near seniors friendly apartment buildings.

At a planning board meeting just last week people voiced concerns about the outreach centre moving less then two kilometres down the road. Some who spoke at the planning board meeting said they wanted to see the Community Outreach Centre shut down entirely. Ahead of that planning board meeting there were 18 letters in opposition of the centre moving, one neutral and no letters of support.

Officials with the provincial government have said the Euston Street location would close within 60 days of city council approval.