Action plan aims to tackle Saskatoon’s growing homelessness problem

WATCH ABOVE: Action plan to deal with homelessness in Saskatoon unveiled. Joel Senick reports.

An “ambitious” five-year action plan to end homelessness in Saskatoon will hopefully address a growing problem in the city, according to the group that presented it Tuesday morning.

Shaun Dyck, the Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) executive director, said “the plan is about collective action” and includes multiple agencies across the city.

“Not one agency can really solve homelessness,” Dyck said to reporters after he presented the plan to a group gathered for SHIP’s Innovative Approaches to Housing and Homelessness Conference on Tuesday.

“This is an effort from everyone in the community.”

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Homelessness is a growing problem in Saskatoon, according to Dyck. There were 450 homeless people in the city according to a point-in-time count on June 22 2015; a similar count in 2008 identified 260 homeless individuals.

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Dyck said “the process of doing a point-in-time count has improved,” however that didn’t account for the entire increase.

“We do know that it is rising due to higher rents and lower incomes,” Dyck said.

The action plan has four key focuses, including improving service coordination and supporting housing placement programs. Saskatoon’s White Buffalo Youth Lodge was one of many groups recognized Tuesday for their work in securing housing for people who may otherwise find themselves homeless.

“We’re the only organization currently working directly with the homeless family population, so that is our mandate,” Heidi Gravelle, the lodge’s executive director, said in an interview at the lodge.

“The goal is to house them and maintain the housing so they don’t fall back into homelessness.”

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Gravelle said the group has helped 21 families secure housing in Saskatoon. She said many were considered “hidden homeless,” which is described as a person who finds a temporary living arrangement because they have nowhere else to go.

“You don’t realize how many families are actually homeless until you’re running a program for them,” Gravelle said.

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The lodge offers services and programming to the families for up to two years after they secure housing. Gravell said the “after care piece is huge and needed.”

“It’s working with people to maintain and advance beyond,” Gravelle said

“If they don’t have the confidence and the ability to ask for help, then they’re going to fail.”

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