The Salvation Army says it is looking into growing harsh criticism of how it is operating in Charlottetown a men’s shelter and a facility intended to provide support services to Islanders in great need.
“We’re working to assure our staff, clients and partners that we are taking this matter seriously and are doing our due diligence to promptly investigate these allegations," says Maj. Jamie Locke, divisional secretary for public relations and development with the Salvation Army Maritime Division. “We have moved quickly to begin the process of reaching out to our staff and clients at Bedford MacDonald House and the Outreach Centre to understand if there are any current concerns."
Clients and former staff have voiced both concern and outrage to The Guardian at how some staff treat people seeking shelter and support at Bedford MacDonald House and the Outreach Centre.
All those interviewed by The Guardian say operations have taken a downturn since the Salvation Army dismissed Mike Redmond who served as residential manager from November 2019 to Sept. 1, 2020.
Madison Mackay has handed in her resignation after working part-time at Bedford MacDonald House for the past year.
She says she has seen many negative changes since the departure of Redmond and Tami MacIntyre, who was the transitional housing and outreach worker for the men’s shelter.
“I have learned that person-centred and trauma-informed care is key to working with clients, especially those who struggle with their mental health, physical health/disabilities, generational trauma, racism, homelessness and/or addictions," she wrote in a letter she shared with The Guardian.
MacKay accuses some staff of displaying discriminatory attitudes towards people with disabilities, mental health struggles, addictions, criminal backgrounds and visible minorities.
When first approached for reaction last week, The Salvation Army would not address any of the allegations against staff, noting it respects the privacy of its employees and cannot disclose any information about them.
However, in a statement to The Guardian Saturday, Locke said the claims of mistreatment “strike at the very heart of our organization, who we are, what we stand for; we remain committed to upholding the dignity of all people and firmly oppose the mistreatment of anyone.’’
He added the Christian organization is committed to providing person-centred, compassionate care and life-changing support to all those in need.
“We provide assistance based solely on the individuals' need and our ability to help," said Locke. “We remain firm in our commitment to compassionately serve and care for all who come within our sphere of influence."
The province will be providing $3.7 million in funding to the Salvation Army over the next three years to help support Bedford MacDonald House, the Outreach Centre and Smith Lodge, and a 20-bed transitional housing complex that will open later his year.
The homeless shelter was once run on a shoestring budget that led to desperate measures that included the previous board knowingly hiring a convicted pedophile, Everett Gallant, to keep watch over the facility.
The board closed the facility in June 2011 after Gallant was charged with sexually assaulting a homeless man who had been staying at the shelter. Gallant was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to serve three years in jail.
A number of churches formed an ad hoc working group to work alongside the Bedford MacDonald board to reopen the shelter.
The Salvation Army took over operations, reopening under The Salvation Army’s name on Dec. 21, 2012, after earlier determining it could not afford to go ahead with such plans.