What would it take to end homelessness in Regina?
It's a difficult question, but upstream thinking teaches us that the answer lies in dealing with the causes of homelessness — not only its symptoms.
So what are the causes of homelessness in Regina?
Every instance is unique, but we can think of there being "recipes" for each situation of homelessness made up of different "ingredients", instead of more rigid causes. Many of these recipes share common ingredients, but it is their unique combinations that ultimately lead to homelessness.
First take one part:
- Mental health issues
- Physical health issues
Mix well, then add:
- Dysfunctional family supports (feel free to substitute a total lack of family supports)
- The housing market with the lowest vacancy rate in Canada for the past half-decade
- A non-profit sector chalk-full of good people doing great work, but lacking the data, resources and systemic tools to deal with a cycle of poverty.
- All community supports like friends, neighbours, school, faith, or work communities. (Just make sure there's no one that can be relied upon for help during hard times).
Sauté, let simmer, and voila — Homelessness in Regina. Serves 5,000+
Improving Regina's Systemic Approach to Ending Homelessness
Ending homelessness in Regina means having the right tools, resources and systemic approach to identify and remedy each "ingredient" of homelessness at an individual level.
On May 13th 2015, around 150 people took to Regina's streets and shelters to survey and enumerate the Queen City's homeless community.
This was a Point in Time (PIT) Count: a research tool used to gather a snapshot of information about shelter use and street homelessness.
These resources alone aren't enough to end homelessness, but they can lay the groundwork
Despite some inherent limitations as a data collection method, this PIT Count has given us some of the first statistically reliable data on street and shelter homelessness in Regina.
The Count was commissioned by the city's Community Advisory Board (CAB) for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS). For each of the next three years the Regina CAB will allocate nearly a million dollars of federal funding for homelessness initiatives in Regina. These resources alone aren't enough to end homelessness, but they can lay the groundwork. Regina's first PIT Count is an important step down this path and was only possible with the support from so many community-minded individuals passionate to end homelessness in our city.
A total of 232 people were enumerated on the night of the count. The results show that:
- 126 of those counted were in emergency shelter (54%), and 62 were in a transitional housing facility (27%)
- 28 were counted on the street (12%)
- 16 were sheltered in a "public system" (detox) (7%)
- 8 were either observed, or self-reported sleeping "rough" (in parks, on the street, et cetera) (3%)
Of the 232 enumerated, 66 participated in the full facility and street survey. From demographic data, facility staff reported the following data trends.
- 34.6% of those counted identified as female and 64.4% as male (from a sample of 208)
- 42.7% were were children and youth under 24 years-old, including 36.8% under 18 years-old (from a sample size of 171)
- 75% were Aboriginal, using observed facility and self-reported data including 100% of those in the street survey (from a sample size of 180)
- 13.6% reported having accompanying minors with them (from a sample size of 64)
- 7.8% reported serving in the Canadian military or RCMP (from a sample size of 64)
- 186 reported a medical condition, addiction or mental health condition (from a sample size of 64)
- 28.3% had been in Regina for less than a year, and 4.8% were new immigrants to Canada (from a sample size of 63)
- 45.5% were experiencing chronic or episodic homelessness (from a sample size of 66)
We can't deny the importance of adequate shelter for positive health outcomes – in a nation and a community which prides itself on social justice, it’s completely unacceptable for so many to be in such great need. The PIT Count is an important step down the path to addressing the upstream causes that create situations of homelessness in Regina. The overwhelming support of so many community-minded volunteers and organizations is a message that we can and will make it the rest of the way. With the right resources and political will, the Queen City can be a place where no one has to think of an emergency shelter, holding cell or sidewalk as an acceptable substitute for a home.
Shawn Fraser served as the Executive Director of Carmichael Outreach in Regina from 2009-2012, working for those most affected by poverty and homelessness. He stepped down to run for and become a member of Regina's City Council, where he now balances his time for Ward 3 while also serving as the Senior Director of External Partnership for the YMCA, the Community Entity for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy in Regina. Originally from Carnduff, Shawn holds a Political Science degree from the University of Regina, and lives with his wife Nichole and their two young sons, Rye and Frank.