NDP MLA calls on provincial government to fund Regina warming shelter

A local MLA wants to see the Saskatchewan government provide funding for a warming centre in Regina after it was denied financial support by the province.

Meara Conway, Regina-Elphinstone MLA and NDP social services critic, said Awasiw: A Place of Hope is a warning centre that has been opened in constituency since December. The centre sees hundreds of people come through its doors each day whether it’s finding a meal or needing a place to sleep.

She said traffic at the warming place has ramped up in recent weeks because of frigid temperatures in the Queen City, and Awasiw’s members have approached multiple levels of government to secure funding to assist with its operational costs.

Awasiw, which is an initiative of the YWCA and All Nations Hope, has since received funding from both the municipal and federal governments. Federal funding was made possible by Reaching Home, an agency which focuses on Canada’s homelessness strategy, while the city requested funding from Indigenous Services Canada.

Conway said the province rejected the shelter’s funding proposal.

“I think it’s completely heartless and irresponsible for the provincial government to not step in and provide a truly modest amount of support for this initiative,” explained Conway. “They are allowing other levels of government to do all the heavy lifting. They are making these kinds of services rely on donations and good will, which is simply inappropriate.”

Conway wrote to Minister of Social Services Lori Carr about a request for provincial funding for Awasiw, but said she refused to provide the funding in her response letter.

“Income Assistance does not have a program or assigned budget to fund the operational requirements Awasiw is seeking. We do, however, want to ensure that anyone who doesn’t have sufficient resources to pay for their basic needs or are in need of shelter are able to access resources through the ministry,” wrote Minister Carr in her reply.

“The Ministry of Social Services will continue to participate in the meetings hosted by Awasiw and provide information on services and programs available through the ministry. Our government remains committed to supporting Saskatchewan’s most vulnerable people.”

Conway suggested the $23 million of federal funding for vulnerable people as an avenue to support facilities like Awasiw. She believes there is no excuse for the government to step up since there is $260 million in contingency funds available.

“This refusal is further indication in my mind that they are increasingly out of touch with where people are at,” stated Conway. “The need is clearly there, the resources exist, yet I question why the government is turning their back on these people during the coldest weeks.”

She understands the shelter asked for the same amount they received from the city, which was in the neighbourhood of $50,000.

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