Opposition Leader Ches Crosbie says a shooting in downtown St. John’s highlights the need for more supports for emergency shelters, particularly when they’re for-profit facilities.
A 23-year-old man died on Wednesday after an incident on Bond Street in St. John’s on Tuesday evening.
Crosbie says he is troubled to hear the incident took place at a for-profit shelter, where there is less access to support services.
“What I understand is they emphasize that the for-profit sector is supposed to be for temporary housing. Where the wrap-around supports are available is in the not-for-profit sector,” he said.
“That’s where people have the best chance of getting entry into the housing marketplace, where they can establish themselves in their own homes. That’s where they should be.”
Children, Seniors and Social Services Minister Lisa Dempster says the incident did not involve any public shelters, but her department is working to improve safety for those who need emergency shelter.
Her department took over the purview of transition houses. She says the goal was to improve the facilities.
“One of the focuses is reducing the number of overnight shelter stays. I had some data as early as this week that we have reduced shelter stays by 50 per cent. It’s only been 16 months. We’re learning as we go,” she said.
Dempster says the priority is always putting people with complex issues with non-profit groups that can offer more support, but it’s not always possible.
“When we place people in shelters overnight, we work with partners, we work with non-profits that are block funded and funded on a per diem basis. When we exhaust those options, we move to private. The reason we start with non-profit is because they have wrap-around supports for those individuals,” she said.
“We have some of these individuals with aggressive behaviours. It’s essential, where possible, that you place those individuals in with non-profit providers where they get the wrap-around support they need.”
St. John’s Centre NDP MHA Jim Dinn says emergency shelters, particularly private, for-profit shelters, need supports.
“I have an issue with, I guess, sometimes the private sector taking on this role. The supports just aren’t there,” said Dinn.
“To me, it’s about having access to the personnel. Who do you call in these incidents? What kind of supports are in place? … To me, I like the term wrap-around services. It’s not just getting them into a home, but then making sure they can stay there and their mental health needs, their food needs, their comfort needs are looked after.”