Community groups hold forum to address needs of people experiencing homelessness in downtown Regina
A group of advocates gathered on the steps of the Knox Metropolitan United Church in downtown Regina on Wednesday afternoon to discuss how to best serve unhoused people ahead of the cold winter months.
Cam Fraser doesn't need to look further than the front door of his church to witness the plight of those experiencing homelessness in Regina, several people have been living on the front steps and in the church yard.
“We’ve done what we can to try connect people with services but one of the realities is there just is not sufficient spaces or supports,” said Fraser, the minister at Knox Metropolitan United Church.
A single person on social assistance in Saskatchewan receives $575 a month for rent and utilities. They receive an additional $285 for food and other needs..
"We know that it’s not even half of what the poverty line is. So it’s not just a question of people living in poverty, it’s how deeply they’re living in poverty and how desperately they’re living in poverty,” said Peter Gilmer, an advocate with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry.
Raymonda Morin lives behind trash containers in a back alley. She lost her apartment because social assistance wasn’t enough.
"Eight hundred and fifty dollars a month. That’s not enough to pay my rent and all my bills and my food and my clothing. They need to do something about that. They need to change that,” she said.
Ironically, there is vacant government housing right across the alley from Raymonda’s mattress. Several people had been living there, but were kicked out and now live on the landings. There is evidence that some may be children.
Alyssa Marinos, who is a part of the Regina Downtown community support team, said she and her partner have connected with 40 to 50 people who are living on downtown streets.
It is quite alarming and it is only getting worse with some of the changes that have gone on with the income assistance program for the Ministry of Social Services and there is a lot of hidden homelessness,” said Marinos.
The minister of social services said she believes there is adequate help for those ready to receive it.
“Get them the help and supports they need. Sometimes they’re ready to accept those supports, sometimes they’re not ready to accept those supports. We need to give them time to decide that they are ready to come and get those supports,” said Minister of Social Services Lori Carr.
The government says it is always working to improve supports and connecting people to what they need.