Council urged to take action on homelessness
If the City of Saskatoon doesn’t put it’s support behind a homelessness action plan, the number of people forced to live on the streets will continue to increase, says the executive director of the Saskatoon Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP).
Shaun Dyck is one of the authors of a homelessness action plan that is being shared with a city committee on Monday. While staff at SHIP will take the lead in implementing the plan, Dyck hopes the city will promise annual funding of $130,000 from its affordable housing reserve to support the organization’s efforts over a five-year period from May 1 to April 30, 2022.
In a report to city councillors, Saskatoon city administration said it supports such a move.
In implementing the action plan, SHIP and partners will study the homelessness problem in Saskatoon, develop programs to fill gaps in the system and work to ensure existing services are easily accessible and fully utilized.
Dyck said homelessness can sometimes be avoided if people are made aware of programs available to them and said institutions such as correctional centres should have protocols in place to help people transition into housing.
“If you’re walking out the door with no money, what income support programs are out there and what if you don’t have the literacy skills to fill out the form? All of these little things that we all take for granted are those things that pretty well can create homelessness when it’s really unnecessary when some people only need a few hours of help,” he said.
“If we can prevent homelessness off the start, that’s a big step forward.”
The last homelessness count in Saskatoon identified 450 people who were homeless in 2015. That was up from 379 in 2012 and 260 in 2008.
If the city puts support behind a homelessness action plan, Dyck said SHIP hopes to house 150 people who would otherwise be experiencing homelessness by 2019.
The 2015 homelessness count showed that nearly half of Saskatoon’s homeless population — 45 per cent — are aboriginal. Dyck said services for people facing homelessness must be culturally appropriate and there are plans to consult aboriginal service providers about how to improve access to culturally appropriate counselling and healing practices.
“Cultural competence in services can seem like a non-essential element of care, but it is vital to success,” the SHIP homelessness action plan notes. “The individuals and families who are creating a new life for themselves will respond better when their values are reflected in the support they receive.”