The Saskatchewan government announced it would provide up to $1.7 million in additional funding to increase the number of emergency shelter spaces in the province.
The Ministry of Social Services will provide an additional $800,000 to community partners to support seasonal cost pressures and $900,000 to increase emergency shelter capacity to 60 beds this winter in Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina.
The ministry said it is in discussions with community-based service providers to determine the number of additional emergency shelter spaces in each community.
They also said the extra funding for emergency shelters would provide more support over the coming winter months as work continues to find longer-term actions to tackle chronic homelessness.
The ministry also continues to work with Indigenous and community partners and all levels of government to seek new approaches to better support people who need more than a house to stay connected to housing.
Aurora Marinari, the development coordinator for Carmichael Outreach, says she’s not confident the funding will help much.
“I don’t think it’s enough,” he said. “The province closed ‘The Lighthouse’ in Saskatoon with no alternative. It’s a 60-bed shelter that’s now gone.”
He said the City of Regina helped open a 40-bed temporary shelter last year, which barely touched the city’s homeless crisis.
“Camp Hope had over 100 residents at any one time, and that shelter didn’t even have enough room for half the residents. Their emergency shelter was just a drop in the bucket,” he said. “The point count had 488 people experiencing homelessness last November, and we know that number has increased this year. Unless they’re opening a shelter that can accommodate that number of people, it’s never going to be enough.”
Marinari said things have only gotten worse from last year.
“I think the statistics that came out recently that we’re up to one in four Camp Hope residents have passed in the last year. Twenty percent of the people who lived in that camp have since passed away from overdoses and colds,” he said. “This definitely shows that there is an increase in the numbers and what is happening to people in our community this year.”
“Every morning, we’re finding that the line starts early and early and gets longer and longer for people who just want a safe place to come and warm up,” he added.
He said it will take a commitment from all levels of government, as well as. a different approach to see the changes made.
“Putting someone in a home is not the only answer. To keep them in their home, you have to address what caused the problems that made them homeless. To think that they can put people in a home without any additional support for his mental health and the drug crisis will not help solve anything.
“There needs to be more equitable support from all three levels of government to address the mental health and drug crisis,” he continued.
Marinari said with colder temperatures approaching, first aid supplies are running low.
“We have more and more customers coming in with frostbite and other cold-related injuries, and first aid supplies are very expensive for us.”
He added that frostbite is a very real risk for many of the people who use his services and access his building every day.