Homeless in Regina: On the ground, it is a difficult battle to fight

We’ve heard this week about how, often, people who are experiencing homelessness in Regina are stuck in a cycle.
It’s much the same for those trying to help the homeless.
In part three of our feature, Homeless in Regina, we spoke to Alysia Johnson, a volunteer with Rally Around Homelessness – a group that aims to connect people with the help they need.

“The sad and unfortunate part, is that when you have scattershot efforts, it really doesn’t get to the heart of the crisis,” Johnson said.

Johnson said they have temporary shelters come and go, but what they don’t have are co-ordinated efforts towards permanent, supported housing. The moment these spaces open, they’re full, Johnson said.
“We know what the results of inaction are, we know what the economic consequences are,” she said. “We can quantify that.”
Johnson said one of the key planks to ending homelessness is the stabilization support for those coming out of homelessness.
“The question has always been – what stabilization efforts will keep that person, or keep that family there,” said Johnson. “What needs to be done so it’s not a revolving door?”
Providing all of these supports is daunting for community organizations. Johnson said at the local level, they’re recognizing they can’t do this as a piecemeal effort.
The federal government is playing a huge role in their ability to be successful.
But the province told them at the end of Camp Hope that they were going to work with clients and landlords, but that hasn’t happened.
At the municipal level, even a ballpark figure for trying to eliminate homelessness becoming a bone of contention between councillors and the mayor.
Johnson herself presented a letter to the mayor’s office after Mayor Sandra Masters responded
“It’s clearer at the municipal level that things just aren’t moving as quickly as they need to,” Johnson said. “I really am hopeful that the feds step in here and really get the ball rolling.”
Johnson feels the disagreements within levels of government are frustrating to those who want to volunteer their time and energy.
“The difficult thing with ignorance is we have to overcome this notion that it’s a moral crisis and it’s not. This is a public health crisis.”
Johnson said she is still encouraged that the discussion is changing from homelessness being a moral crisis into that of a public health crisis. All of the contributing factors is its own co-pandemic, she said.
Those who want to help contribute in a direct way, are encouraged to do so.

“I think that every single human on this planet has a skill to contribute, and if a person cares, no deed is too small,” she said. “I really believe that.”

A place known as Pepsi Park not far from downtown became a tent city for the homeless, with about 100 people there in 2021. One of those tents belonged to a woman named Marjorie, who died in October of an overdose.
Johnson remembers how she felt the night that Camp Marjorie’s namesake died.
“I remember walking away from that feeling so … helpless,” Johnson recalled. “I remember thinking, ‘I’m one person, I don’t know what to do. This is beyond anything I feel capable of doing.’”
She met organizers and met people in the community similarly shocked and feeling helpless. Johnson said they were talking the day after that when the first tent was pitched, and the rest is history.
While it’s easy to find yourself discouraged, there is strength in a community that wants to help.
“You have to have faith and you need to lean on each other and you need to lean on your community,” said Johnson. “I’ve seen groups of women come together … and next thing you know, they’ve organized entire grassroots efforts that have helped Awasiw (a warming centre that opened all hours during the winter thanks to a federal injection of cash), that have kept food going to that warming centre throughout the winter.” Johnson suggests reaching out, connecting, and thinking about your own circles of influence.

She reminds everyone that no effort is too small.

“Connect with us, talk to us,” she said. “We can’t solve everything but we will always be here to help people and find where to divert those resources.”

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