Advertisement

Residents wary after Charlottetown's outreach centre relocates to their neighourhood

The Community Outreach Centre's new location at the end of Park Street, next to the city's temporary overnight emergency shelter, opened on Saturday. (Stephen Brun/CBC - image credit)
The Community Outreach Centre's new location at the end of Park Street, next to the city's temporary overnight emergency shelter, opened on Saturday. (Stephen Brun/CBC - image credit)

The Community Outreach Centre officially opened at its new site in Charlottetown over the weekend, but some residents are concerned the issues that plagued the centre at its old location will follow it to their neighbourhood.

The outreach centre has been operating since Saturday morning out of a series of mobile trailers at the end of Park Street, next to the area where a temporary overnight emergency shelter is located.

Previously, the centre had been located at the former Charlottetown Curling Club on Euston Street. People who lived nearby had long complained about discarded needles, open drug use and loitering.

Luke Leunes, who lives on Beach Street close to the centre's new location, said he'd seen similar issues cropping up after the emergency shelter opened at the end of 2022.

Since the outreach centre's operations opened over the weekend, Leunes said he's noticed more foot traffic around his backyard.

Luke Leunes, who lives in the neighbourhood near the Charlottetown Outreach Centre's new location at the end of Park Street, says the P.E.I. government did little to consult with residents on their concerns about the centre's move.
Luke Leunes, who lives in the neighbourhood near the Charlottetown Outreach Centre's new location at the end of Park Street, says the P.E.I. government did little to consult with residents on their concerns about the centre's move.

Luke Leunes, who lives near the outreach centre's new Park Street location, says the provincial and municipal governments did little to consult with residents on their concerns about the centre's move. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

"My concern is that it's going to end up becoming like the outreach centre that was on Euston. I do see the police are making a presence and trying their best for that not to happen, but we will see what happens," he said.

"In some ways, it gives me pause about being in my backyard, but it also gives me a reason to be in my backyard. Because if I don't know what's going on and I just have a blind eye to it, it's only going to get worse."

The outreach centre, which provides services to people who are struggling with housing or other issues, was established in June 2021.

It has been operated by the Adventure Group since April 2022.

Residents near its previous Euston Street location had lodged numerous complaints, including allegations of trespassing, public drug use, and threats from people thought to be its clients. They also said it had been inappropriate to allow it to operate near two schools and senior-friendly apartments.

Charlottetown Outreach Centre new location
Charlottetown Outreach Centre new location

Charlottetown police have promised to ramp up patrols in the Park Street area in response to concerns from residents in the surrounding neighbourhood. (Stephen Brun/CBC)

In January, Charlottetown council narrowly approved a temporary variance for one year to allow the centre to move to Park Street, with Mayor Philip Brown casting the deciding vote in favour to break a tie.

Mitch Tweel, the councillor for the area that includes Euston Street, said the operation had been a "real detriment" to his community.

While he was pleased at the decision to move it, Tweel said it would be hypocritical to say it's a better fit at Park Street.

'I said right from day one that this facility should be shut down,' says Coun. Mitch Tweel of the outreach centre's old location in the former Charlottetown Curling Club on Euston Street.
'I said right from day one that this facility should be shut down,' says Coun. Mitch Tweel of the outreach centre's old location in the former Charlottetown Curling Club on Euston Street.

'I said right from day one that this facility should be shut down,' says Coun. Mitch Tweel of the outreach centre's old location in the former Charlottetown Curling Club on Euston Street. (Tony Davis/CBC)

"My heart goes out to the people that live [in that area]," he told CBC News on Monday. "After what we've gone through, I wouldn't wish this on anyone. I said right from day one that this facility should be shut down, and the majority of people that I've talked to felt the same way."

Tweel said he'd like to see the former curling club torn down and a community centre built in its place.

'We'd like to get out in front of it'

The Adventure Group has taken steps to operate things differently at the Park Street location. There is a security building where clients will be triaged according to their needs, and chain-link fencing around the majority of the site to make it more difficult for people to come and go freely.

The new site isn't completely ready for full operations yet. Contractors could be seen going in and out of the Park Street location on Monday.

No one with the provincial government was made available for an interview Monday, but the province said in a statement that it will be meeting with contractors Tuesday morning to determine what work still needs to be done at the site.

Charlottetown Police Services has also promised to ramp up its presence in the area, while the P.E.I. government has sponsored six city officers to keep the Park Street area safe, as well as to keep a presence at the vacated space on Euston Street.

Two officers patrolled the area on foot over the weekend.

Charlottetown's deputy police chief Jennifer McCarron says the force wants to head off any potential issues arising from the outreach centre's new location. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

"We'd like to get out in front of it to kind of set the tone that we won't tolerate the loitering, hanging around," said Charlottetown's deputy police chief Jennifer McCarron. "If they're not going to take the services, they'll be moved out of the neighbourhood."

The new measures are something Park Street area's residents will be keenly watching in the weeks and months ahead to gauge whether they will truly improve safety.

In the meantime, the outreach centre's new neighbours like Leunes hope for more consultation from government as time goes on — consultation they don't feel happened before the centre moved to their area.

"The best outcome would be a better response from the government and more communication between departments: city, provincial, municipal, federal," Leunes said. "We're talking about a whole thing where everyone can point the finger at everyone else and just lay back and not deal with it. That's why we're frustrated. There's no accountability to this whole thing.

"It could all go to hell and we don't know who's responsible."