Closing the gap: Housing the homeless in Saskatchewan
- By NC Raine | July 19, 2022
Studies have shown rates of substance abuse and mental illness among the homeless population contribute to lower life expectancies and recovery from addictions, but there are places that can help.
Since December, the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) has been operating an emergency wellness centre on 1st Avenue in Saskatoon. As of April, the centre supported 407 individuals and 14 families, which amounts to over 7,200 beds being used as of opening. In May, the provincial government announced they will be provide up to $3.5 million to support the centre.
“This is an opportunity for STC to have an Indigenous-led program to support Indigenous people and all people to have a quality of life,” said STC Chief Mark Arcand. “This funding will help us build a foundation to address homelessness in Saskatoon. In the past four and a half months, we have been very transparent, accountable, and accomplished outcomes that have supported individuals and families.”
Arcand said they are starting to see results.
The plan is for STC to eventually move the wellness centre to a permanent location.
Oxford House Saskatchewan (OHS)
For the last 10 years, Oxford House Saskatchewan (OHS) has provided safe and affordable housing in Regina to individuals who have recently completed an addictions recovery program and has expanded to Saskatoon.
“We were finding that people were leaving from treatment in Saskatoon and coming to Regina. With the need that was out there, we crunched the numbers and saw that there was an opportunity to expand services to Saskatoon,” said Mark Soloway, OHS executive director.
In May, OHS opened five affordable homes which amounts to 25 rooms in total.
“We find that people leaving addictions treatment, they need to get out of those toxic environments that they were living in that caused those addictions triggers,” said Soloway.
The primary requirement for entering the OHS is the recent completion of a 20-day recovery program, or being in the process of entering treatment. Soloway said they receive applications every day to come to OHS, and if they housed every person who applied, they would “be at capacity in no time.”
According to Soloway, 80 per cent of their tenants are at-risk of being homeless when they leave treatment and the average length of stay is 154 days. “We see people being far more successful and staying on their recovery journey when they stay with Oxford House. Transitional housing out of treatment is a key component for people staying sober.”
Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI)
Looking forward, Regina’s future Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) is to construct 29 affordable housing units for residents who are exiting homelessness.