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'Bunch of morons': Regina city council scraps location for permanent emergency shelter

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Plans for Regina’s new permanent emergency shelter were scrapped Wednesday after seven hours of deliberation by city council.

The meeting primarily jumped back and forth between two points:

That there is an immediate need for a permanent shelter space in order to combat Regina’s ongoing houselessness crisis.

The other was that businesses and property owners do not want a shelter going up in their neighbourhood due to concerns for community safety and economic impacts.

At the end of the day, the latter won in a vote of six to five. Ward 3 Coun. Andrew Stevens voted in favour of the shelter moving into his riding, and expressed frustration over the outcome.

“I think we look collectively like a bunch of morons. Administration went, they did good work, they put before us a recommendation, we brought that from executive, we had time to think about it, and then we spent however long on it when it could have been thirty minutes,” Stevens said.

The proposed location would have been on the corner of Albert Street and Dewdney Avenue, a spot council settled on after three years of searching. The lease on the current temporary shelter space will be up in July of 2025.

“I think that the ideal situation is that you have some level of distance from residential and that you are situated in a place that has a bit of a buffer zone. It may or may not exist but to say that nothing else exists I don’t think is true,” Mayor Sandra Masters said.

Delegates on both sides of the matter spoke. Those who expressed opposition to the project all cited the need for shelter space in the city, but many took issue with the proposed location.

“I think it’s disappointing that council would consider to put a facility like this that will strain the neighbourhood inside one of the most vulnerable neighbourhoods that is already strained in Regina, I think that’s absurd” a delegate," Dustin Plett said.

The project would have required a $7.5 million investment from all three levels of government including $3 million from the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation, in addition to the allocation of $1.5 million from the city’s social development reserve.

Ward 6 Coun. Dan LeBlanc spoke with media following the decision and said council was going back on previous commitments.

“For some of my colleagues, [it is] a dramatic and cowardly retreat from past commitments we made and past commitments we ought to continue to make given that 92 people died of homelessness last year,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc followed up his statements by announcing that he plans to seek re-election come November.

Andrea Soesbergen provided a delegation in favour of the proposed location, emphasising the impossibility of finding a spot without community pushback.

“No matter where you put it, people are going to be impacted, at the end of the day, it’s got to go somewhere. It’s important and people are ready to acknowledge that it’s needed but people just don’t want it near them. At some point, we gotta just bite the bullet and do it.” Soesbergen said.

Council decided to not purchase the space and continue searching for a suitable permanent shelter space. Administration has been directed to provide a status report by Oct. 9.

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