Scratching the surface of homelessness
The Rapid Housing Initiative is a federally funded program that provides supportive housing for people who are transitioning out of homelessness. The City of Regina received $7.75 million in capital funding from this federal program and it will be used to provide 29 new housing spaces to help address the issue of homelessness within the city. On February 2, the city council approved the sale of the land where the complex will be built and the provision of funds to Silver Sage Housing, the organization that will be responsible for carrying out the program in partnership with Regina Treaty and Status Indian services.
The housing will be built in the northeast neighbourhood at 120 Broad Street. The location was selected due to the proximity of transportation, community resources, and amenities. The location has been controversial due to the lack of prior communication with the community before the project was confirmed and the land sold. Due to the lack of communication, misinformation was allowed to spread about the project. Since then, however, the city has taken steps to reengage the community, including an extensive and constantly-updated facts and questions document and specific contact information for people who have questions.
“I think there will always be that feeling of apprehension when there’s a major change coming into your neighbourhood, and that’s very common. I think that the steps that we took, in this case, were to make sure that we were able to really very clearly communicate the intention behind this apartment building and how we were going to be managing any potential risks that neighbours were concerned about,” said Emmaline Hill, the manager of Social and Cultural Development in the city. “We understood very quickly that there was a deep desire for a lot of information from this neighbourhood. And the city responded with a very comprehensive “frequently asked questions” document that we posted to our website, and we’re continuing to update it as we go forward. As there are changes to any of the details of the project as we make progress, we’ll be able to continue to update that document and keep people informed.”
Residents, in order to be eligible to live in the building, will have to have been working with Regina Treaty and Status Indian services for 6-12 months prior to moving in. This is to ensure they will be able to live on their own with help from the supports that are provided on-site. Supports will include healthy living services such as nutrition and personal care, social supports such as counselling, life skill training, as well as cultural supports like access to healing spaces and traditional learning and medicines. The residence will be for people who have experienced barriers to housing in the past, and it is a misconception that it will be people in an active crisis living there. A stipulation for the funding is that 25 per cent of the housing be targeted towards women or women and their children, and a minimum of 15 per cent be targeted towards Indigenous residents. The policies of Regina Treaty and Status Indian services mean that there will be no residents in the building with a history of violent or sexual offences, as it makes them ineligible.
“I think this is a really important time to be talking about housing,” Hill said. “You’ll probably notice that across Canada, this is a really key issue, and yet it is emerging differently in every community. What we’re doing in Regina might look a little bit different than what’s happening in other communities because we need to respond to the specific drivers and issues that we’re seeing here locally. Yet we are connected to a larger question across Canada about how we manage a housing shortage and how we support more vulnerable populations in ensuring they have access to safe, secure and affordable housing. So it’s a really important issue at this time.”
The Rapid Housing Initiative is a big step in Regina’s efforts to combat homelessness. The issue of homelessness has become exacerbated since the beginning of the pandemic and a recent count found nearly 500 individuals experiencing homelessness in the city, a number that almost certainly underestimates the actual instances of homelessness in the city. It will require an active and combined effort from many people in order to help, and supportive housing is a crucial step for people who are coming from homelessness.