Coun­cil urged to take ac­tion on home­less­ness

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - CITY + REGION - AN­DREA HILL ahill@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/MsAn­dreaHill

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.”

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