As a newly established tent city grows in Regina’s Core Community Park, several local organizations are coming together to secure amenities like food, shelter and bathrooms for the community.
An outhouse is being delivered Tuesday, adding to garbage containers, sharps containers, naloxone, food, water and blankets already delivered to the site, which has grown to seven tents in size since it was established Friday.
Speaking Friday, organizers said they’ve been increasingly motivated to take action amid fears of a surge in homelessness in Regina.
“In September, when the Saskatchewan Landlords Association had conducted a survey of something like 2,600 rental units renting to Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) clients, a full 30 or 31 per cent were not paid, with another 18 per cent partially paid,” said Carmichael Outreach Board Chair Alysia Johnson, referencing recent changes to income support in Saskatchewan.
“We need to give people an option that’s not, in dumpsters, in alleys, spread out everywhere.”
SIS, which replaced the Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP) and the Transitional Employment Allowance, was implemented in 2019. SAP officially closed on Aug. 31 of this year.
One way that SIS differs from its predecessors is that its shelter benefit is sent directly to the client, as opposed to a landlord. Tent city organizers fear the change could lead to missed rent and evictions, especially among those struggling with a substance use disorder.
As of Tuesday morning, Regina Needle Recovery and Community Support spokesperson Shylo Stevenson says there are seven tents on-site at the park right now, housing a fluctuating population of 12-20 people.
He said Carmichael Outreach secured the outhouse, which Loraas is delivering at some point Tuesday for a reduced cost.
Still on organizers’ wish list: construction fence, tarps to cover the fence and a generator.
The community is also accepting donations of food, blankets, long underwear and hand warmers.
When asked for comment Friday on the developing community, the city of Regina provided the following statement from City Manager Chris Holden:
“The City of Regina remains open to exploring options on how to best support individuals in our community experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.”
“The lines of communication are open with a number of community organizations, as well as the Ministry of Social Services, to look at interventions such as warm-up spaces or emergency shelter options.”
“We do not believe a ‘tent city’ at Pepsi Park is the best outcome for any member of our community and we look forward to continued dialogue as we look for a community solution for our most vulnerable.”