Regina forum examines housing

By Barb Pacholik, Leader-Post, March 8, 2014 - REGINA - Feeling unsafe in her own home, a tenant has repeatedly called police about suspected offences by her neighbours — but can’t afford to move anywhere else.

With a long-standing drug problem coupled with mental health issues, one person has a challenge finding an affordable home, let alone keeping it.

A family dips into their money for food in an effort to find the $850 monthly rent on a one-bedroom apartment.

When the thermometer dips, one man’s homelessness strategy involves pulling a crime so he can find shelter from the cold, even if it’s in a jail cell.

They are some of the true situations raised Saturday at a forum on housing in Regina.

“You are stuck between a rock and a hard place,” said one woman, who feels her landlord is being unfair but struggles to find another willing to take on a tenant on social assistance.

Organized by the Queen City Tenants Association, the forum drew some 20 people. Chair Angelica Barth said the advocacy group wants to keep homelessness and housing problems on the public agenda.

“We’ve got a long ways to go yet,” she said. “We’re in the midst of a crisis.”

Addressing the event titled “Housing Problems: Regina Solutions,” speakers Rob Deglau, from the North Central Community Association, Tyler Gray of Carmichael Outreach, and the YMCA’s Devlin Williams traced some of efforts underway and those still needed.

Deglau, a former city councillor, hopes City Hall will get on board with a “crime-free multi-housing strategy,” that has proven successful in Saskatoon. “It gives landlords the tools that they need to have crime-free housing,” said Deglau, adding that it’s a training program primarily delivered by police.

“We want landlords that are present and involved in the neighbourhood,” he added.

With the program expected to cost about $200,000, he’s hoping it will be on city council’s agenda.

Meanwhile, Carmichael has a program focused on finding housing for those with additional challenges, including mental health and addictions issues. It has grown from some 30 clients to more than 300 in about four years.

“Most of them don’t have the capacity to be a private market tenant ... They would come back through our doors three months later having been evicted due to financial constraints or the issues in their own lives,” explained Gray.

Using a “housing first” strategy, the program has more recently evolved by providing support services or “after-care” for the clients so they’ll have greater success. Gray noted that once people have stable housing, they’re also more likely to be able to address other issues, such as their addictions.

About 15 months ago, the YMCA became one of the community groups responsible for administering federal funding under the Homelessness Partnership Strategy. Williams is equally excited about “housing first,” noting that a national pilot project has demonstrated the success of connecting homeless people with community teams to achieve permanent, stable housing.

More of the federal strategy money will be dedicated to such programs.

“We would like to start with trying to address the people who are the most chronically and episodically homeless,” he said.

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