Why Sask. homeless shelters won't take men with children

For single fathers in Saskatchewan, going to a homeless shelter when times get tough is not an option.

Regina father still in hotel with 2 children after being turned away last week

Souls Harbour is one of two homeless shelters in Regina that accepts men, but it won't take fathers with children. (Google Maps)

For single fathers in Saskatchewan, going to a homeless shelter when times get tough is not an option.

Blair Roberts is a former employee of Soul's Harbour Rescue Mission and now works for the YMCA on its Housing First initiative. He said there are many more shelter options for women in Regina, but there are also fewer men who rely on the shelter system.

Regularly, Roberts said he gets calls from men looking for shelter and the only two in the city — Soul's Harbour Rescue Mission and Waterston Centre — are at capacity. Soul's Harbour only has 12 beds and Waterston Centre requires funding eligibility.

According to those in the industry, there is a shortage of beds in Regina shelters. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

Neither accept fathers with kids, no matter the circumstances.

"It's so sad. For whatever reason, men with children are really falling through the cracks in the system," Robert said.

"I think because there's not a lot of those situations, it's just been easier for people to ignore. But unfortunately it's a big reality for the man who is in that situation with their child."

That's the case for Robert Epp, who lost his partner suddenly in May and was left to look after their two children, Freedom and Mistatim. Both are under age five. 

He was told there are no homeless shelters for men with children in the entire province, a fact that Saskatchewan's Ministry of Social Services confirmed to CBC.

Robert Epp with his children, Freedom, 4, and Mistatim, 16 months. (Submitted photo)

With men in close quarters, Roberts said safety concerns keep shelters from accepting children. Issues with violence and addictions often emerge. Workers also fear there may be child predators.

At the same time, almost all the shelters that take women are set up to accept mothers and children.

While single fathers looking for shelter in the system are not as common as mothers, Roberts said he's met about five in the past three years.

Some fathers have to stay at a men's shelter while their children stay at a youth shelter, depending on their ages.
Social Services said when a shelter stay is not available, or is not appropriate for an individual or family, it instead issues benefits to provide for a short-term hotel stay.

On Tuesday afternoon, Epp said his family's hotel stay was extended. They have been living out of hotels for nearly a week.

Epp said he is currently working with social services to get identification, which he lost moving from hotel to hotel. He has been unable to apply for a long-term residence because of it.

Roberts said with the YMCA's Housing First initiative, he hopes one day to be able to house people in need within a week.

For now, he said it's proving to take much longer, because it is solely receiving federal funding.