Saskatoon homelessness report points to gaps in service

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WATCH: Saskatoon community safety officers are seeing more interactions with vulnerable people. Kyle Benning reports on how leaders are trying to find stable housing for people who need it. – Aug 16, 2021

Community support officers and housing advocates are seeing more people in need of stable housing in Saskatoon this summer.

There are a number of factors but one is that many people who were taken out of either the City Centre Inn and Suites or the Prairie Heights building are without a home again.

Read more: ‘More work to do’ now that most City Centre Inn evacuees re-homed, community agencies say

Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) said around 10 to 15 per cent of its current clients have lived in one of those buildings.

“A lot of those individuals we’ve had to rehouse as well because they’ve gotten themselves into situations where they were evicted for a number of circumstances,” said Priscilla Johnstone, homeless action plan manager with SHIP.

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Now, there is a push to build a stronger, stable housing network that includes access to social programming.

“We’re really working to try and coordinate efforts to make sure that if housing gets built, it has got the supports in place to help people who need help to stay in housing to be able to succeed,” Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said.

A report to the planning, development and community services committee says community support officers helped more than 300 people in May — nearly double from January.

Read more: Saskatoon judge appoints administrator to handle Prairie Heights condo affairs

Two years ago, the provincial government changed the way it offers income assistance funding by taking away the ability for tenants to pay landlords directly through social assistance funding, ultimately making it more difficult to find a place to live for someone with addictions or mental health issues.

“What’s happening now is we’ve got a lot of landlords who are refusing to take clients that are on that program,” SHIP housing case manager Debbie McGraw said.

The chief of the Saskatoon Fire Department, Morgan Hackl, said the city’s response to City Centre Inn and Suites and Prairie Heights was reactive and they’re looking to change that.

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“We have many options to provide some kind of enforcement or remediation to properties to avoid closures,” Hackl said.

The chief added he’s presenting a report at city hall next week regarding changes to bylaws and building codes so the department is more proactive in working with property owners before evicting tenants.

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