Saskatchewan

Advocates, homeless meet to discuss housing solutions in Regina

Attendees in Regina learned about the 'Housing First' initiative that effectively eliminated homelessness in Medicine Hat, Alta.

The downtown YMCA hosts a half day meeting focused on 'Housing First' solutions

Putting people who are homelessness in permanent housing immediately after seeking shelter helps them better focus on the other issues they may be dealing with, advocates say. (Pabak Sarkar, Flickr cc)

A policy called 'Housing First' has ended homelessness in Medicine Hat — and now advocates in Regina want to expand the policy within the Queen City. 

The YMCA in downtown Regina hosted a forum on homelessness in the city Friday. Advocates, service providers and those who experience homelessness themselves were in attendance at the half day meeting on the policy. 

Housing First operates on the principle that if you can find someone a stable place to live, they'll be able to better focus on some of the other issues they may be facing. 

"When you eliminate the instability that someone has in their housing situation it allows them to expand the scope of their empowerment," explained Tyler Gray, who works at Carmichael Outreach

"So somebody moves from maybe just survival to a place where maybe they're able to think long term about the outcomes they want to have for their life."

Traditional models to help people out of homelessness would first put the person in a shelter, then into transitional housing before they were given a permanent apartment or house. Housing First flips that on its head.

For example, no one in Medicine Hat spends more than 10 days in an emergency shelter or on the streets. 

"We're pretty much able to meet that standard today. Even quicker, actually, sometimes," Mayor Ted Clugston told As It Happens host Carol Off back in May.

But according to Gray, Medicine Hat and the province of Alberta are able to cut down the number of people who are homeless in their city because of significant support from the government. The province invested about $30 million dollars in a strategy to fight homelessness.

Neither the municipal or provincial government attended the meeting at the YMCA — something Gray said was disappointing.

"Whether it's provincial or whether it's municipal it's a collaborative invitation. We need them at the table, we need that leadership we need the folks that we've elected to represent us to be the drivers of this in our community," Gray said. 

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