The sun was out Thursday making it look like a beautiful fall day, but nighttime temperatures went well below zero.
Randy, who didn’t want to give his last name said that he and other houseless people feel left out without any support.
“We get cold at night, it’s pretty hard, whatever wood that we can find in the back alleys, we need blankets and maybe more tents or something like that to be warm, it was pretty cold last night,” Randy said.
He went on to talk about how he could have accessed affordable housing, but chose to stick with the others to support them and watch out if anyone overdoses.
Shylo Stevenson, communications director at Warriors of Hope said, “We’re in a more dire state now than we were last year. The resources that we had available to us last year, the 24-hour warming centre and other agencies being able to provide stuff, we don’t have this year.”
He added that it is going to be tough for a lot of the houseless people to make it through the winter without a definite plan.
This week marks a year since Camp Hope in Pepsi Park came into existence. The tents were set up after the death of Vivian Marjorie who at the time was homeless and died of an overdose in Victoria Park.
A feast was held at Pepsi Park Thursday, when Marjorie’s family was in attendance. Stevenson said that it’s a celebration and ceremony with prayers to move forward.
Camp Hope had about 70 tents up and over 100 residents. In November 2021, the city announced a move of some of the residents to an emergency indoor shelter with 40 beds that was run in collaboration with Regina Treaty Status Indian Services (RT/SIS).
Advocates say community agencies don’t have the funding to adequately address Regina’s homeless problem and if it is not dealt with urgently, it will continue to cost lives.
“So, at the time that they opened that temporary 40-bed shelter last year, we had significantly more people than that left behind. And out of those people that were left behind, nearly one in five died. So, we view this as life or death. We either deal with this with urgency or continue to look to another year,” said Alysia Johnson, advocate at Rally around Homeless.
She said a challenge they face is that services and outreach programs don’t have operating funding so while there may be long-term projects in the works there is no action being taken right now to help people struggling to live on the streets.
It’s been less than a week since Wanda Natawayous’s daughter Angela passed away. The 22-year-old died in hospital October 4, 2022, after a stroke and blood infection.
She was found unconscious in an alley while experiencing homelessness and struggling with a substance use disorder. Her mom Wanda said if Angela had the right support, she might still be alive.
“At Camp Hope, she might’ve received that attention right away, she might still be here. But she’s not,” said Wanda.
In terms of accessing shelters, Stevenson says it’s nearly impossible. People looking for help may not have IDs, cellphones, access to internet.
“There’s just so much barriers and it’s a system that’s set up for them to fail,” he said.
He added that people often go to shelters, utilize them but without proper mental health support, addictions counsellors, and social services they just stay stuck in the cycle of going from one shelter to another without any permanent solution.
Dan LeBlanc, Regina’s Ward 6 councillor said that they have spent a lot of time since 2018 talking about ending homelessness but the city needs to take action now.
“If someone has a strong view on it, we’re going to debate this on December 15,” he said. “Anyone is allowed to come speak on it. And so, you should come share your views. Do you want to be a city that houses vulnerable people or that lets them live and die on the streets?”
Stevenson said that there is also light at the end of the tunnel. “We can look forward to better days, but we need to take that first step, and somebody needs to step up and take that lead, whether it’s the city or the province.”
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