Saskatchewan

Dozens of residents receiving assistance at tent encampment Camp Marjorie in Regina park

Since people began taking shelter at Camp Marjorie in Regina's Pepsi Park earlier this month, the encampment has grown to more than 31 tents.

Encampment sprung up earlier this month

Camp Marjorie at Pepsi Park in Regina's Heritage neighbourhood. (Raphaële Frigon/Radio-Canada)

Since people began taking shelter at Camp Marjorie in Regina's Pepsi Park earlier this month, the encampment has grown to more than 31 tents.

Heading into its third week, organizers at Camp Marjorie said they might need to expand the space that the city has now fenced off for residents. 

"We were talking about possibly expanding and asking [the fire department] to give us more space, but we're just going to try to make it work," said Shylo Stevenson, communications director for Regina Needle Recovery and Community Support. "It's getting chilly, so if we have to bunk a couple extra people into a tent, the body heat will provide extra warmth."

According to Stevenson, part of the reason Camp Marjorie can stay at its current size for now is because workers from the Ministry of Social Services have been coming to the camp and helping find more stable lodging for residents. 

"They are removing people daily and lodging them in hotels, and then from there, they're putting them into secure places," he said. "With Social Services removing about 10 to 15 people every day, it makes it a bit more manageable."

Elderly people, disabled people or those with other significant needs have been given first priority. 

LISTEN | Regina community comes together to help homeless at Camp Marjorie
Volunteers and a local business pitch in to help those living at Camp Marjorie - a place set up to help people dealing with homelessness in the wake of the new Saskatchewan Income Support program. 7:11

Over the weekend, rumours circulated online saying the cost of these temporary hotel stays would be taken from future Income Assistance benefits, leaving residents with less money to spend on housing next month. The Ministry of Social Services said this is not the case — the emergency shelter funds come from an entirely different source. 

"These claims are not true and are contributing to misinformation and hesitation in our efforts to assist vulnerable individuals in securing housing and benefits," Rikkeal Bohmann, a communications consultant for the ministry, said in a statement.

Bohmann also said that, since Oct. 12, ministry staff have met with 45 people at Camp Marjorie and helped connect them with income support and social housing programs, and some people have "accepted support to be relocated temporarily to hotels and/or shelters."

Stevenson said the government response remains insufficient. Often, the temporary hotel stays run out before a longer-term solution is found, so people return to Camp Marjorie, he said..

"We have a revolving door of people coming in and out, coming and going," he said. 

Stevenson said residents at Camp Marjorie will need more support from their city and their province going forward. 

"We need more than Social Services coming on site," he said. "We need addiction services. We need mental health support. … But it can't be out of a tent. It can't be out of Camp Marjorie.

"We don't want to be a solution for anything."

For now, Stevenson said the best thing people can do to support Camp Marjorie and its residents is to contact their local politicians and make their opinions known.

"We really need to have some policy changes," he said. "We love the support and everything that we're getting, but we need more people making calls to our MLAs and our city officials." 

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