Plan to end homelessness targets most vulnerable

SASKATOON – Hundreds of Saskatoon’s homeless sleep on streets and in shelters throughout the year, but that could be about to change.

Today, United Way released a plan to end homelessness, with a priority to house the most vulnerable in our community first.

At last count in September 2012, 379 people in Saskatoon didn’t have a home.

“One Hundred people that day in Saskatoon had nowhere to sleep that night so that’s the size of the problem,” said Sheri Benson, United Way executive director.

Using the recommendations from a two day community consultation in May, United Way has come up with a plan.

Identifying seven priority strategies the plan focuses on housing highly vulnerable people with multiple needs as well as youth exiting the foster care system.

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“We do need to get started because as communities boom and grow homelessness can become a bigger issue because housing becomes unaffordable,” said Benson.

One of the main recommendations will see the implementation of the Housing First program.

Already proving successful in cities like Calgary it provides a person with a house first, then connects them with needed services.

“By providing a home without certain conditions on it then people can get their lives back together because if you have a mental health issue or addiction issue, if you don’t have a place to call home and be able to work on getting those things addressed how are you ever going to be able to move past homelessness,” said Shelley Hartwell, CEO of The Alex in Calgary where they utilize the Housing First model.

It’s estimated every homeless person currently costs the community around $130,000 annually.

The Housing First program is proven to reduce that cost to around $30,000 in part by reducing hospital visits and contact with police.

President of GMAG Holdings Ltd. Grant McGrath will chair a new governing board that has also been created to oversee the implementation of processes.

“What we will be doing is we’ll be looking at committees, we’ll be reaching out to the community to service organizations to take part in discussions because the key to the success of this is going to be how the community comes together,” he said.

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Other strategies include looking to the business community for one-time investments towards training or rental subsidies.

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