Ok so back in 2021 the province of Saskatchewan changed the rules for social assistance. Instead of giving money directly to landlords for rent they gave the money directly to the tenants but in smaller amounts. This made it possible for landlords to increase rents and refuse to rent to people on assistance. (I mistakenly had this backwards and was corrected by a good friend. Here is what he said to me, “ for years social assistance directly paid the rents, then under pressure from rental groups the provincial govt had social services change it to forcing the renters to pay rent themselves. allowing landlords to refuse to rent to people an/or raising rents on previously low rent cost units”. This increased the number of evictions and caused many people on assistance to be unable to obtain housing. The resulting increase in homelessness was a problem and was called a crisis by many in the media and a camp formed in what was then called Pepsi Park in Regina. The camp grew through the fall with more and more media attention being drawn to it the city finally took some actions and set up some temporary housing for some of the people in the camp. Unfortunately not for all of them.
In 2022 the Regina city council voted unanimously to dedicated a segment of the budget to ending homelessness in the city. When the budget came out the city manager had not allocated any resources to the elimination of homelessness. This made some councillors upset and they went through the process of trying to hold the city manager accountible for not following the mandate of city council. I don’t know the details of this and frankly find it to be tedious but in my sources for this piece I will have links to articles that discuss it. I remember talking to a friend who had recently spoken to the city manager who was new to the appointment and was appointed shortly after the city council vote to end homelessness. He claimed that she was in the right because the council had given her no guidance at all as to what they actually wanted done. This seems like a reasonable objection but also a dodge of responsibility. The line item could have been small and written as a research project to look into the cost of ending homelessness or something like that. Governments do “feasability studies” all the time. Either way nothing got done.
In the fall of 2022, a full year after the start of Camp Hope, which was what the camp of unhoused people was called before it was dispersed, city council got an estimate on what it would cost to eliminate homelessness in Regina. This is a problem that affects nearly 500 people in Regina according to a report from homelesshub.ca that was done in 2021. A problem that at that time affected 500 people and the estimated cost was 15.4 million per year. Essentially a pittance for a city who actually cares about the goal of ending homelessness but worse than that, we know that people who are unhoused suffer worse and need more resources across a variety of supports than those with stable housing. It’s a simple fact that even if it costs 15.4 million dollars per year, we as a community and as a society would get that back in spades in the betterment of not only the lives of those affected but also in actual dollars and cents. It’s ethically wrong to leave people living on the street and it’s more expensive than giving them homes.
In December 2022 the city council hosted more than 70 delegations discussing the need for relief for the homeless population of Regina. I won’t go through the testimonies but all in all it should have convinced them. As it always does in our backwards thinking society it came down to the numbers and with numbers like 96 million or 62 million being thrown around it’s not really a surprise that it didn’t end up in the budget projections at the time for the 2023-24 budget.
In January of 2023 a new winter shelter opened up and was essentially at full capacity right away and without interuption until the spring. I had trouble finding much about the actual homeless people of Regina from January until June when it looks like the city bulldozed a longstanding homeless encampment on the 1800 block of Halifax street. Just short of 2 weeks later a group of advocates held an event and handed out food at Pepsi park which was the location of Camp Hope in 2021 to “celebrate” the one year anniversary of the city’s commitment to end homelessness in Regina.
The next day the encampment at city hall had begun. Comprised of advocates and unhoused people the new camp was a representation of what had been going on in the city for nearly 2 years. People living right under the noses of those with the power to change things and nothing being done about it. The camp started with 16 but rapidly grew to 30 people and the Mayor Sandra Masters continued to claim that the responsibility wasn’t on the city but rather on the provincial government. Of course knowing full well that everyone is going to pass the responsibility onto whoever they can and that a Sask Party provincial government is as likely to pass legislation allowing the hunting of homeless people as they are to pass anything that would alleviate the situation.
I could go into some detail about the nonsense coming out of the Mayor’s office and Police Chief Bray’s mouth(ACAB) but I don’t think that’s necessary. The gist of the story is that the advocates and homeless people of Regina were attempting to make a point and rather than listen to it the City of Regina took down their camp under the guise of fire safety and ultimately bussed many of the campers out of town because we all know that out of sight means out of mind.
It’s infuriating to know that the city I call home cares so little for the unhoused people within it. It feels like a slap in the face to justice and to human rights when money is used as an excuse to pass off responsibility but I’ve lived in Saskatchewan my whole life, I’m used to being disappointed.
As I leave this piece of writing I ask that you check out Rally Around Homelessness on the site that used to be Twitter to keep up with what’s happening and try to find out who is doing the work for the unhoused in Regina and support them. And do what you can to hold those in power accountable. They know they can do more but instead they hum and haw and do nothing. Even while this city bought a plane for the Regina police and increased the policing budget they deny the cost of solving homelessness. It’s sick and we need to change it
Here are all the sources I used for this. I’m not a professional by any stretch so I may have some details wrong and hopefully this list of articles can help fix any errors I made.