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Sellers at Carmicael Outreach.

Regina’s cold weather strategy works to keep people off the streets during extreme weather.

 

With homelessness increasing at a faster pace than the government can assess, shelters and social service institutions have decided to step in and help. In Regina, these institutions have prepared a cold weather strategy to provide people on the streets with accommodation for nights where the temperature could represent a threat to their lives.

 

 

Started in 2013 by the ministry of social services and United Way, the strategy aims to direct both individuals and families to shelters where they could spend the night. Some shelters, like the Salvation Army, are able to accommodate the people during the day and serve meals.

 

Institutions like United Way, Souls Harbour Rescue Mission and the YMCA shelter more people than they are prepared to accommodate in normal circumstances. Depending on the case of the individual, however, the person might be redirected to a specific location.

 

John McFadyen, executive director of Mobile Crisis Services, said intoxicated people or people with behavioural issues are one of the toughest to assess. In some cases, they might be temporarily taken out of a shelter. Some cases have even demanded to keep people in brief detoxification units until their conditions allow them to return to where they would spend the night.

 

The community also plays an important role in the strategy. The City of Regina has told its employees to alert Mobile Crisis or the city police if they see a homeless person during extreme weather. “We have tracked the emergency shelter’s space every night and that information is available on our website. It is available to anyone,” said McFadyen.

 

For cases where no accommodation is available in the shelters, Mobile Crisis takes responsibility to find people a place to sleep. Depending on each case, the possibilities range from a hotel room to city police cells.

 

McFadyen said the cold weather strategy addresses immediate cases. More shelters operating in the city as well as the federal Housing First strategy are some long-term improvements he foresees.

 

coldweatherstrategy mobile

 

Carmichael Outreach is another important institution for the cold weather strategy. Even though it does not provide shelter, it gives clothing and food to people in need. Like Mobile Crisis Services, Carmichael's staff and volunteers also help find shelter for people who need it.

 

Homelessness is an issue that goes beyond availability of shelters and affordable housing. Brain injuries and mental health issues also contribute to homelessness. In these cases, people require a supportive housing program that is able to understand their needs and help them get back on their feet.

 

Cora Sellers, executive director at Carmichael Outreach, said in some cases people with addictions or mental health issues have refused to be helped. In her opinion, the people in Regina do not do enough to fight homelessness in the city. “There is a certain level of apathy, where people are blaming (the affected) for homelessness and there’s not a lot of general compassion,” Sellers said.

 

Nevertheless, through Carmichael, Sellers has witnessed many acts of kindness

 

 The director said there have been a significant number of students from the University of Regina who have decided to volunteer at Carmichael. Last semester, over 30 business students volunteered at Carmichael; which, to Sellers, indicates a growing commitment from the university to helping the issue of homelessness in the city.  However, she thinks the effort could be bigger.

 

“I’d like to see the community stop judging people. I’d like them to look past the stigma and realize that underneath the addictions, mental health issues and poverty, it’s not about a moral judgment but see that everyone is a human being,” said Sellers.