*Originally published as Letter to the Editor, Journal Pioneer, August 18, 2021
Whether we’re talking about housing, healthcare or education, at the heart of it, what most Islanders are really looking for is the services and support they need, when they need it, and where they live. That’s not too much to ask for. And when it comes to housing, I cannot believe how difficult it is to get the Minister to see just how important this is and then do something about it.
As the MLA for Summerside-Wilmot, I’ve been working with people who could never have known they were about to experience homelessness. Oftentimes, these are people with jobs, who have children and busy lives, who were just going about their daily lives when for one reason or another they had to leave their home.
Only when people start apartment hunting do they realize the extent of the housing crisis in Summerside. Ask anyone who has had to look recently and you’ll hear how hard it is to find a place. At 1%, the vacancy rate is extremely low. For many, there is simply nowhere to go, so it’s becoming increasingly common for people to run out of time and run out of options. It’s a shock when they realize they are going to have to put their belongings in storage and live in a motel room without even a kitchenette while they continue to apartment hunt.
Since 2018, the province has been paying for motels for people facing homelessness. This is a poor substitute for an actual home, but in the absence of investment in public housing, it’s absolutely necessary. People need somewhere to stay. While people are staying in provincially funded rooms the province is supposed to support them to find a longer term solution, like an apartment, but that’s not happening. It’s distressing for people to hear that they will no longer receive help because a monthly rental in a motel room is deemed a good enough long term housing solution.
To make matters worse, many people in Summerside are told the province will only rent a motel room for them in Charlottetown. This is absurd and doesn’t recognize the reality of the people facing homelessness who still need to stay in their community. If you have a job and childcare in Summerside, a motel in Charlottetown is zero help. People need appropriate help in their own community.
I have brought this to the attention of Minister Trivers countless times, but nothing has been done to resolve it. The fact that the simple step hasn’t been taken to make sure people in Summerside can consistently get help in Summerside is nothing more than a lack of care for the people in my district.
We know that recently government left available federal money on the table that should have been spent on public housing. When so many Islanders are facing homelessness, and so many more are a step away from facing the same situation, this is unacceptable. Government cannot ignore this crisis any longer. Islanders deserve better. I’ll be pushing to see more investment in public housing in Summerside in the capital budget, and will continue to advocate on behalf of my constituents who deserve better from this government.
Lynne Lund, MLA