Winter woes cause hardships
Poverty is still a prevalent problem today in Saskatchewan, especially in Regina. According to Poverty Free Saskatchewan (PFS) – a network of individuals, businesses, organizations and governments working towards ending poverty – in 2006 Saskatchewan’s overall poverty rate was 15.3 per cent, which affected 140,000 people. Saskatchewan has the third largest poverty rate in Canada, the national average being 14.5 per cent. In 2007, 16.7 per cent of all children under the age of 18 in Saskatchewan were living under the poverty line.
PFS states economic inequality is associated with many social and health problems, and these have links to crime and teenage pregnancy.
In 2012, Regina, for the second year in a row, had the lowest vacancy rate in Canada, at 0.6 per cent according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. This rough market has contributed to the increasing poverty problem, causing rental prices to increase by about $50 this year alone.
Carmichael Outreach is an organization in Regina that offers support to the community through various programs. Of the programs that Carmichael offers, two of them stand out. The clothing and small household depot is a place where members of the public can drop off donations that are later sorted and distributed to those in need, and the food recovery program repackages food that would otherwise be thrown out, and redistributes it amongst people in the community. There are about twenty programs currently running at the Carmichael Outreach Centre.
“Almost everyone we talk to says the housing [is] the issue, whether it be homelessness, couch surfing [or] precarious housing where they may not be able to make rent next month.” – Alaina Harrison
One of the biggest challenges with fighting poverty in Regina is the housing issue, says Alaina Harrison, a housing support coordinator at Carmichael Outreach.
“Almost everyone we talk to says that housing [is] the issue, whether it be homelessness, couch surfing [or] precarious housing where they may not be able to make rent next month.”
Finding affordable housing is a large factor in maintaining a sustainable livelihood explained Harrison. “It’s hard to go about other business when they don’t have that security.”
Winter creates even more problems, specifically for Regina’s homeless community. In the summer, many sleep in tents camped out throughout the city, but in the winter, this can be highly dangerous with the freezing temperatures.
“People we know sleep outside … we try to provide as many sleeping bags as we can,” said Harrison.
In the morning, Carmichael Outreach serves coffee, and due to the weather, many people try to hang out in the centre as long as possible. There are not many options for people, Harrison notes. “For a lot of people, [this is] the only place they can stay.”
Donating money and warm clothing to organizations like Carmichael Outreach can help a great deal, said Harrison, but the public must also continue to pressure all three levels of the government, to keep the issue on their radar.
“This problem has come to Regina … [We’ve had the] lowest vacancy rate for a while and it is not getting better and it is causing hardship.”
Photo courtesy of mayorofvancouver.ca