Federal funding to allow homeless warming shelter to open overnight in Regina beginning Dec. 1
With funding from the federal government, the hours of operation for Awasiw – The Warming Place in Regina will be extended overnight beginning on Dec. 1.
Awasiw – The Warming Place, located at 2735 5th Ave, will now have overnight access from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. in addition to its regular hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The All Nations Hope Network (ANHN) received the funding from the Namerind Housing Corporation, which administered the funding on behalf of the Government of Canada.
“ANHN is delighted to be able to provide additional services for the community,” Margaret Kisikaw Piyesis, All Nation’s Hope Network’s director of finance and research, said in a news release.
“Providing a warming shelter to the Indigenous community of Regina coincides with the one vision we speak of, which is truth telling which entails the problem with homelessness in Regina with Indigenous people.”
In an interview with CTV News, Kisikaw Piyesis said extending the hours of Awasiw came from a request from clients.
“The people that are coming through our doors on a regular basis in our outreach centre - we’re responding to their needs. They have asked us to open up Awasiw again at night,” she said.
“We wanted to have a place not only to warm them physically, but to warm them mentally, emotionally and spiritually.”
The release noted that the federal government’s annual investment in Regina through its “Reaching Home” program has doubled in the past three years to close to $5 million.
“By supporting All Nations Hope Network, Indigenous people who are experiencing housing difficulties will be able to access life-saving warm spaces during the day and through cold winter nights,” Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, Ahmed Hussen, said in the release.
Bernadette Friedmann-Conrad, the manager of Regina’s Reaching Home Community Entity, said Awasiw helps to meet an immediate need in the city.
“Awasiw is one specific service on the spectrum of interventions that are needed,” Friedmann-Conrad said.
“It’s cold. It’s going to get colder. People are dying in other cities already according to reports and it was a priority. We’re grateful that funding was still available.”
First opened in December 2020, Awasiw has struggled to find the funding to operate regularly.
Friedmann-Conrad said although it may seem like this announcement is coming at the last possible minute as temperatures drop, it’s been in the works for quite some time.
“The overall contract with All Nations Hope for this fiscal year is about $374,000,” she said. “In particular, to be able to keep Awasiw open overnight, it’s $164,000.”
Awasiw is set to remain opened overnight throughout the winter until March 31, 2023.
The City of Regina has been offering an overnight transit bus as a temporary warming location for those in need for the past several weeks.
Mayor Sandra Masters said that will end shortly after Awasiw reopens.
“We created the warming bus to alleviate the overnight lack of warming shelters, so once the warming shelter opens I believe administration is reaching out to the community based organizations to advise them that the warming bus will be decommissioned,” Masters said.
The city clarified there is no official agreement with Awasiw regarding a replacement for the temporary warming bus, but said it is in contact with multiple organizations to discuss more than one alternative to the warming bus.
Mayor Masters said there have been reports of incidents of violence on the warming bus, adding an actual shelter in a building is a more appealing option for everyone.
She said Awasiw offers more wrap around services to connect with clients and offer support, which the bus does not.
“There have been reports of violence, sexual assault, drugs and alcohol consumption and some general disturbances,” Masters said.
“There’s some safety concerns from an employer perspective.”
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