Homeless shelter to re-open next week

Teresa Wright
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There will be room at the inn for homeless men in Charlottetown now that several community groups and government are working together to re-open the Bedford MacDonald House.

Board members of the only men's homeless shelter in Charlottetown met with the province a few weeks ago, requesting help in reopening the shelter.

It closed last June after Everett Charles Gallant, an employee of the facility, was charged with sexually assaulting a homeless man staying at the shelter. Gallant pleaded guilty to the charges, but a judge rejected his plea and a trial has been set for Feb. 10.

The Salvation Army was expected to take over operation of the facility in November, but cancelled those plans after structural engineering reports revealed the costs required for renovations and structural changes were too prohibitive.

This left the shelter's future looking dire.

That's when provincial chaplain Rev. Scott MacIsaac decided something needed to be done.

He gathered together representatives from number of churches in Charlottetown and, together with the Bedford MacDonald board and the Salvation Army, formed an ad hoc working group to try to help the homeless shelter get back up and running.

"It's getting cold outside, and we felt the number one priority is that this building has to be opened," MacIsaac told The Guardian Friday.

Each organization has taken on a specific task in working toward getting the building ready for business again. Proper security checks of any staff are also being conducted, MacIsaac said.

The province has also stepped up in support of the shelter.

On Friday, government announced it would offer a one-time donation of $20,000 to support necessary re-opening costs.

Community Services and Seniors Minister Valerie Docherty said her department recognized the immediate need of getting the only homeless shelter in the province's capital re-opened before the deep cold of winter sets in.

"We realized that the organization was in sort of a predicament in the sense that without some assistance, they probably weren't going to be able to open," Docherty said.

"As a socially-minded government, we certainly don't want to see men in this province who are struggling and finding themselves homeless suddenly not being able to find a temporary place to go."

Docherty added she looks forward to working with community groups like the ad hoc working group to secure a more long-term solution for future sustainability.

MacIsaac said a long-term plan for the home is also a key priority for the shelter's working group. But right now, the focus is on getting the shelter back up and running.

They hope to have Bedford MacDonald Home re-opened by Wednesday.

MacIsaac said he was happily surprised to see how quickly so many different organizations were able to come together and achieve an immediate resolution to a pressing issue.

He said he is especially pleased this all happened during the Christmas season.

"The old idea ‘there's no room at the inn,' we said that at one of our meetings. And that's what we're doing. We're making room at the inn," MacIsaac said.

"If we can't do it now, then when? It has to be now."

Organizations: The Salvation Army, Bedford MacDonald House, Bedford MacDonald board

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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