mi-homeless-estevan

Space in a church in Estevan is being used as a temporary shelter for the homeless. (Google Streetview)

Despite a booming local economy — or perhaps because of it — a shelter for the homeless has opened in Estevan, Sask.

It is the first such place for the community, in the province's southeast.

Space for people needing temporary beds has been set aside at St. Paul's United Church, and is available Thursdays to Sundays. 

After being open for two nights, only one person has used the place.

Marion Huber, one of the people who helped set up the shelter, said it will take time for people in need to come forward.

"It's about a trust-building thing," Huber explained. "It'll be word of mouth, so that they know they will be treated with dignity and respect. And I think there's a bit of a stigma if you tell someone that you're staying at a shelter."

Huber has estimated there are likely 20 people in need of a place to live in Estevan.

The one person who was in the shelter has work, but no place to live.

"When he goes to work today, he'll do his job, but he's wondering where he's going to go tonight," Huber explained.

The space in the church is a pilot project. 

Estevan is a hub for Saskatchewan's oil and gas exploration industry.

While not a precise measure, a sampling of rental properties listed on kijiji notes that a one-bedroom apartment in Estevan commands in excess of $1,000 per month.

According to a spring report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Estevan had a vacancy rate — at that time — of 1 per cent. That compared to a provincial average of 2.1 per cent.

The only place with a tighter rental market was Regina, with a vacancy rate of 0.6 per cent.

According to the CMHC survey, the only available rental units in Estevan were for bachelor suites and one-bedroom apartments.