Saskatchewan government spending $40M to address homeless crisis

Saskatchewan is spending $40.2 million over the next two years in a plan intended to help people who are unhoused across the province. 

Saskatchewan is to spend $40.2 million over the next two years in a plan to help people who are unhoused across the province. A handful of people were taken into custody as Regina police forced those living in an encampment in front of city hall in Regina to leave on Friday July 28, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeremy Simes

The province says in a news release that 155 new supportive housing units are to be created in Regina and Saskatoon, which are also to have on-site supports. 

The plan also includes 120 new permanent emergency shelter spaces in cities across the province.

Additionally, two emergency shelters are to be established in Regina and Saskatoon for people with complex needs.

These shelters are to provide a secure and medically supervised place for people who are intoxicated. 

The homelessness crisis has been a challenge for communities across the country, including in Saskatchewan. 

Police forced dozens of people to leave an encampment set up in front of Regina City Hall in July after multiple fires. 

The encampment began in mid-June and a report for city council said there had been 83 tents and as many as 76 people at the site. There were also 20 overdoses reported in the camp, the report said, one of which resulted in a death.

A report from Saskatoon’s fire department earlier this year showed the number of homeless encampments in that city also increased. In response, city council sent a letter to the province calling for help to address some of the barriers to proper housing.  

“Together, and with community partners, we will work to improve the lives of Saskatchewan people who are struggling with addictions and mental health challenges to support their transition to stable and supportive housing,” said Social Services Minister Gene Makowsky in a news release Friday.

Saskatchewan’s new plan is to include an integrated approach between the ministries of social services, health and corrections, policing and public safety. Government will also work with municipalities to deliver homeless outreach services and mitigate any community safety issues around the shelters. 

“Public safety is a critical part of addressing the needs of people experiencing homelessness and mental health and addictions issues,” said Public Safety Minister Paul Merriman in a news release.

Saskatchewan also announced Friday that it will create 500 new treatment spaces and a central intake system to address addictions. 

The province is putting forward $49.4 million over five years for the action plan for mental health and addictions.

It will include detox and pre-treatment spaces, as well as in-patient and outpatient treatment, post-treatment and supportive living spaces.

“Our plan is to build a full continuum of care that includes detox, in-patient treatment and supportive living that is as seamless as possible and recognizes that the pathway to recovery is different for each patient,” Mental Health and Addictions Minister Tim McLeod said in a release. 

-With files from the Canadian Press-

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