March 10, 2016 2:35 pm
Updated: March 11, 2016 4:44 pm

Saskatchewan reviews homeless policy on bus tickets

A report says giving two homeless men in Saskatchewan one-way bus tickets to British Columbia was within Social Services policy but the situation could have been better handled.

Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press
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VANCOUVER – Jason Stennes says he knows what it’s like to be down on his luck with nowhere to turn, so he wants to offer jobs to a pair of newly arrived homeless men who say they were given one-way bus tickets to B.C. from Saskatchewan.

“We’ve got to take care of each other … and if I’m able to help out I will,” Stennes, a 43-year-old high school dropout who is now owner and CEO of 360 Cranes Services, said Thursday.

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“I’ve been offered chances in my life and I just feel it’s important to pass it on.”

Charles Neil-Curly, 23, and Jeremy Roy, 21, had been living at a homeless shelter in North Battleford, Sask., but Neil-Curly said a funding cut meant he had to find somewhere else to go.

Neil-Curly said he asked for a ticket to B.C. and was later on a bus with Roy, his friend from the shelter.

Workers from a local shelter were on hand to welcome Neil-Curly and Roy at the Vancouver bus station when they arrived Wednesday, offering them food, a shower and a warm bed.

Jeremy Hunka from the Union Gospel Mission said Thursday the men were in “good spirits” after staying overnight at the shelter and that the next step was to connect the two with caseworkers to develop a care plan.

“We want to make sure that they have a vision of where they want to go and we want to help them achieve their goals and get them out of being homeless,” Hunka said.

“They’re in the driver’s seat.”

Neil-Curly had expressed an interest in heading to Vancouver Island to be with his best friend, which is something Hunka said his organization could help facilitate.

“If that’s the case, we will do the best we can to make sure they’re connected before they arrive so that we don’t have another situation where somebody’s going to arrive in a new city with nowhere to go and with a really difficult situation in terms of finding shelter,” he said.

Saskatchewan’s Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer said Thursday the province would look into revising its policies around sending homeless people out of province if the Saskatchewan Party is re-elected next month. Harpauer had already ordered a review to see if the policy was followed correctly in this particular case.

Like other provinces, she said Saskatchewan has a long-standing policy to buy bus tickets, but that is normally done when someone needs to return to their home province or needs to reunite with family.

B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman said the two men were welcome in the province and would be taken care of.

People who arrive in British Columbia can apply for social assistance as soon as they arrive, but must meet the same eligibility requirements as anyone else. People who are in immediate need can apply for hardship assistance if they have no other way of providing for their basic needs.

“This is about people in need,” Coleman told reporters in Victoria.

“We shouldn’t decide to judge people who … move across this country. The minute we do that, frankly, I think we lose our humanity.”

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