Statement by Karla Bernard, Opposition Critic for Social Development and Housing, on importance of the Community Outreach Centre and King government’s failure to properly support it

I am deeply troubled by the conversations I’ve been having with Islanders about the Community Outreach Centre. This is a vital service in our community and I am calling on government to take action immediately to address these concerns. Through discussions I’ve had while visiting the Centre, conversations with clients, advocates, residents and concerned Islanders, it has become apparent that things are reaching a breaking point — and something must be done. Everyone, and I mean everyone, deserves to live with dignity and safety.

It doesn’t take long to understand one central reason why the Centre isn’t working for its clients or its neighbours. The issues and problems have been made abundantly clear. This centre is sorely underfunded. There is not enough staff, and not enough resources or supports. The clients and the community deserve the supports that are required for this centre to be a success.

On any given day 75 people access the Centre and many end up staying in the neighborhood before and after hours. The reality is there are still only 29 shelter beds in Charlottetown and people do not magically have a place to go when the Centre closes.

Government has heard the needs of clients, staff and residents. It is now time for government to choose to act accordingly. We have the potential to create something pretty amazing here. It is an opportunity that is right at our fingertips. If we could provide the proper funding and supports.

If government truly cared for their most vulnerable, if the King government truly cared for this community, we would see change immediately. We would see increased funding for food and clothing programs at the Centre. Increased staff and security resources. We would see a safe consumption site for those struggling with addictions. We would see shelter beds added to the Centre to house individuals who have nowhere to go after 8pm. The Centre would be completely accessible. Instead, we see an empty and useless promise to move it elsewhere.

None of these issues are impossible to fix IF you have the political will. I was happy to hear that Minister Brad Trivers has been consulting with the working group and The Salvation Army. However, he then went on to say that these changes are not happening fast enough for his liking and Islanders deserve to know why. Who exactly is in charge here, Minister?

Minister Trivers and Premier Kings’ lack of empathy and care for these Islanders is damaging this community and their lack of action is hurting everyone. As a former teacher and counsellor, as a mom, as a community member, as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, I am concerned for my community and the lives of those who depend on the Community Outreach Centre.

Ghandi once said, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” What does it say about our society, and specifically the King government, when we apply this quote to the Community Outreach Centre? I am calling on the King government to take immediate action and provide everyone in our province with the support they need to live with dignity and security.