'I was humbled': Man recalls period of homelessness as Regina strives for functional zero

The YMCA in Regina — with the support of a number of organizations including the city — put out the call Thursday to hire a consultant to build the city's plan to end homelessness.

Group seeks consultant to come up with city's plan to end homelessness

Regina's plan to end homelessness will ultimately strive for a goal of functional zero. (David Bell/CBC)

When Kenton Weisgerber became homeless, he had lost his job, he was depressed and "enthralled" with addiction.

There was a short period where Weisgerber had a couch to sleep on but that was nixed when he bought alcohol rather than contribute to the household, causing him to be kicked out. 

"Looking back on it, it needed to happen the way it did, because I was humbled," Weisgerber told CBC Radio's The Morning Edition on Friday.

"I looked at my situation as that 'oh, I work all the time. I put in hard work. This could never happen to me.' Well, it did — it happened very fast."

Weisgerber, now being housed through Regina's Housing First Program, is just one of hundreds of people in Regina who were or are homeless.

The last official count numbered 232 homeless in the city, but the real number could be higher as the count didn't include people who may have been sleeping on a friend's couch on the night of the count, or who have become homeless since then. 

Weisgerber said one moment he had a nice, warm place to stay. The next moment, he was couch surfing or spending entire days walking around outside.

"To be kicked out, not have a place to go — I was absolutely destroyed," Weisgerber said.

In August, Regina city council voted to develop a plan to end homelessness in the city. The YMCA in Regina — with the support of a number of organizations including the city —put out the call Thursday to hire a consultant to build the plan.

Functional zero

When the plan is released next summer, Shawn Fraser, former city councillor who is now with the YMCA, said the goal will be to strive for functional zero homelessness in the city. 

Functional zero would mean people that fall into homelessness would be quickly re-housed. 

"That's not to say that no one will ever fall into homelessness again," Fraser said.

Functional zero can mean different things in different cities, due to the available resources and the capacity to address the number of homeless people and the community's capacity to address homeless needs.

"All too often right now, what we see is people enter a shelter system, there's not really a plan in place," he said.

Fraser said the hope is that the plan will have a community standard, in which someone who enters the shelter system should be placed in housing within a set amount of time — though the standard has not yet been decided. 

With files from CBC Radio's Morning Edition