Regina is experiencing a homelessness crisis. The situation is so bad that a tent city has sprung up, with tents providing shelter for a growing number of people.
How did this happen? Rents went through the roof. Since 2006 they have doubled and they are still going up. People lost and continue to lose their housing.
Tents are affordable housing for the poor! There is no running water or electricity, but they do provide a safer place than overcrowded shelters or the streets. They also allow for self-sufficiency, empowerment, and community.
Regina’s tent city is home to some 15 people—a drop in the bucket, given Regina’s homeless population.
Tents are a last option. What we need is affordable (30% of income) rental housing.
HOMELESSNESS IN REGINA
3401 The number of different individuals who sought shelter services in 2010, according to a University of Regina study, Homelessness in Regina: 2010 Report, a study that documented the people who used Regina’s shelter system over a three-year period: This number only reflects those who were absolutely homeless. Many others double-bunked, couch-surfed, or lived in over-crowded, unhealthy conditions.
232 The number of people counted in a 2015 Regina point-in-time homelessness count, conducted between 10 pm and midnight on May 13 by the YMCA’s Homeless Partnering Strategy: During the two-hour period, volunteers walked the streets of the downtown, Heritage, and North Central areas, counting homeless people. Those staying in emergency shelters that evening were also counted.
126 The number of people counted in a 2016 Regina shelter-census, conducted between 8 and 11 pm on March 7 also by the YMCA’s Homeless Partnering Strategy.
Don’t be fooled by these numbers into thinking that Regina’s homelessness problem is being solved. Given the lack of affordable rental housing, the number of homeless people is almost certainly increasing! As for accuracy, the first figure, 3,401, is the most reliable because it is the result of a year-long, rather than two or three hour, count.
ENOUGH COUNTING! Last week saw the launch of yet another count, this one being carried out by the YWCA as part of a national 20,000 Homes Campaign. This time the goal is “to create a city-wide registry of homeless individuals.”
COUNTS COST MONEY! We already know that homelessness has reached crisis proportions in Regina. The city’s shelter system is filled to capacity. People are living in tents.
Rather than spending more money on yet another count, let’s put that money toward providing homeless people with permanent, decent, affordable housing!
ENDING HOMELESSNESS IN REGINA
During the municipal election, Mayor Michael Fougere stated: “We need to provide more housing and we need to end homelessness. Those are the major things I want to see happen.” These are encouraging words!
The Mayor’s preferred solution seems to be Housing First, a federally funded program that requires no input from the city. While Housing First is part of the solution to homelessness, it will not, on its own, bring an end to homelessness.
- Housing First is aimed at a narrow category of people—those who are chronically homeless—and leaves everyone else who is struggling with housing out in the cold.
- Housing First only has the capacity to house a few dozen people because of funding limitations.
The City of Regina cannot solve all Regina’s housing problems. That will require federal and provincial input. There are, however, measures the city can take that will go some way to addressing our city’s homelessness crisis. Here are two of them:
- Require developers to include a certain number of affordable rental units in their plans or pay a fee into an affordable housing account.
- Work with the business community to purchase Sears Warehouse, and, with the help of NGOs and volunteer citizens, convert it into affordable rental housing.
NATIONAL HOUSING DAY: NOVEMBER 22
November 22 is National Housing Day. First recognized in 2000, it is a day for taking action to end homelessness in Canada.
TAKE ACTION FOR NATIONAL HOUSING DAY:
- Hold Mayor Fougere accountable. Let him know you want him to keep his election promise to make ending homelessness in Regina a top priority: firstname.lastname@example.org or 777-7339.
- Also let your City Councillor know you want City Council to take concrete action to address Regina’s homelessness crisis:
Ward 1 Barbara Young email@example.com
Ward 2 Bob Hawkins firstname.lastname@example.org
Ward 3 Andrew Stevens email@example.com
Ward 4 Lori Bresciani firstname.lastname@example.org
Ward 5 John Findura email@example.com
Ward 6 Joel Murray firstname.lastname@example.org
Ward 7 Sharron Bryce email@example.com
Ward 8 Mike O’Donnell firstname.lastname@example.org
Ward 9 Jason Mancinelli email@example.com
Ward 10 Jerry Flegel firstname.lastname@example.org