The fallout from the decision to tear down the homeless encampment outside Regina city hall has made its way to city council.
The encampment was destroyed in late July and hosted 83 tents at its peak. Now, the area remains fenced off, and Mayor Sandra Masters said there are biohazards in the grass.
At Wednesday’s city council meeting, Ward 1 Coun. Cheryl Stadnichuk, Ward 3 Coun. Andrew Stevens, Ward 6 Coun. Dan LeBlanc and Ward 8 Coun. Shanon Zachidniak called for the city to declare a “houselessness emergency.”
However, in a vote of six to two, city council voted against the motion.
Masters said the motion wouldn’t be helpful for the city.
“The feedback we’ve received from community-based organizations who work in this world has been that this can be incredibly disruptive to the relationships in the fragile ecosystem that occurs on the streets for how folks get outreach and how they connect with services and the relationships that are being established,” she said.
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Leanne Jarocky, a homeless advocate with Rally Around Homelessness said the result of the vote was not one she expected.
“I guess I was a little naive because I honestly went in thinking it’s kind of a no brainer, right?” she said. “Let’s acknowledge this is a crisis and we need some help.”
The motion in front of council also asked for:
- For the city to call on the provincial and federal governments to contribute emergency funding to address the crisis.
- For city administration to create a plan to provide temporary barrier-free shelter for all Regina residents in need by the end of the third quarter of 2023.
- That the city make a long-term commitment to addressing homelessness as part of the 2024 budget process.
- That safety guidelines be created for encampments.
- That encampments only be dismantled for safety reasons if there is a documented pattern of unwillingness from camp organizers to address multiple safety concerns.
During the debate, council discussed whether or not making demands of the provincial and federal governments is the right call, how to be more communicative of council’s action plans, as well as whether or not making additional plans would be helpful and if additional housing is affordable.
The discussion led to heated responses from people in the chamber which had them removed.
According to the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, Regina saw an increase of 110 per cent in the Point-in-time Homelessness which saw its total rise from 232 people in 2015, to 488 in 2021.
“I don’t think anybody in the room was saying that the city isn’t doing anything,” Jarocky said. “What the delegates were saying is it’s just not enough.”
City council has decided creating new long and short term financial plans will move forward to budget deliberations.
“We have a plan to end homelessness,” Masters said. “We have clearly outlined within that plan our investment, which we have far exceeded and the continued work that we are doing, which is coordinating and collaborating.”