A number of questions are being raised following news about two homeless men from Saskatchewan.
A report in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix states two young First Nations men were each given one-way bus tickets from North Battleford to Vancouver and Victoria. They told the newspaper they were denied provincial funding to stay overnight at the North Battleford Lighthouse homeless shelter and that is when the Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services paid for the two bus tickets.
Charles Neil-Curly, 23, and Jeremy Roy, 21, arrived at Vancouver’s bus station on Wednesday afternoon.
Asked if he was happy to be in B.C., Neil-Curly replied: “Yeah, I guess. I don’t have to sleep in a snowbank.”
WATCH: Controversy growing over two homeless men being sent to BC
Jeremy Hunka, from the Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver, said they were surprised and concerned to read the story in the newspaper.
Saskatchewan Social Services Minister, Donna Harpauer, said in a statement they are investigating the incident.
I have had a conversation with Social Services Deputy Minister Greg Miller regarding reports that two young men were given bus tickets for out of province destinations by Social Service workers.
I reaffirmed to the Deputy Minister that regulations require a case plan be established by workers and clients before transportation be provided. The Deputy Minister is also reviewing if case plans were in place for these individuals and he will be reminding front line workers that clients should have a plan in place before they are given bus tickets for destinations away.
Hunka said right now, in Vancouver and Victoria, there is a high demand for shelter space.
“At Union Gospel Mission, we have a very good program where we take people in and we can work with them to transform their lives,” he said. “It involves a lot of things, homelessness is a very complicated issue to address. It takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of support.
“Once somebody, who is already struggling with mental health and homelessness and hasn’t been able to hold down a job, arrives in a new city, in a new area without any supports, how are they going to respond to that new challenge of trying to transform their reality?”
WATCH: Saskatchewan Social Services defends sending two men to B.C.
Saskatchewan is in an election campaign and the New Democrats issued a statement accusing the government of Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall of tackling poverty by buying people “a one-way ticket to B.C., putting them on a bus, and shipping them out.”
Governments have offered people help to leave a province before.
Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein cut welfare rates in the 1990s and offered one-way bus tickets to B.C.
In 1995, the Ontario government offered up to $1,500 in travel expenses to welfare recipients to move to B.C. if they could prove they had roots in the province.
B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman said government data indicates homeless people from Alberta and Saskatchewan are arriving in the province in large numbers.
Sgt. Randy Finchman with the Vancouver Police said they are not aware of an influx of people coming in to the province.
“It’s certainly something where we work very closely with the city, looking at the current homeless population, making sure they are appropriately housed, making sure they have what they need to live in Vancouver. That would be our goal going forward, to make sure that everyone who lives in Vancouver has access to safe and affordable housing.
– With files from The Canadian Press