The City of Saskatoon is preparing a bylaw to allow temporary shelters for people otherwise living on the streets over the winter.
“This is a very urgent situation and we do need to build better solutions so that people have safe, affordable housing here in our community in all seasons,” Mayor Charlie Clark said.
The River is Hungry: When North America’s largest inland delta withers
The idea cleared its first hurdle at council’s planning, development and community services committee meeting on Monday.
Cameron Choquette, CEO of the Saskatchewan Landlord Association, told the committee he believes changes to the provincial social assistance system are at the heart of the issue.
“(It’s) now squeezing municipalities to provide increased social service work through the Saskatoon Fire Department and through community agencies based in Saskatoon,” Choquette said.
The province finished switching over to the Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) program at the end of August. Landlords and utility companies no longer receive direct payments from the province. Security deposits are now provided once every two years.
“These systemic changes are creating a new level of homelessness in Saskatoon and in our province,” Choquette said.
“We’ve seen increased encampments, we’ve seen increased homelessness on our streets.”
A report presented to the committee detailed three different encampments found recently in Saskatoon.
Last week, the Saskatoon Tribal Council announced plans for a temporary shelter , staffed around the clock, with cots for sleeping.
Choquette said 30 per cent of SIS clients have not paid their rent for the last two months. Landlords have reported that 80 per cent of those cases will result in eviction, while the remaining 20 per cent will have negotiated payment options.
“You just need to walk out on the street to see an increase in homelessness,” he said.
Landlords want direct payments resumed, security deposits given to clients as needed and restorations of client-worker relationships in the system, he said.
Those are short-term solutions, but the bigger issue is the amount of money people on SIS are getting to live, he added.
For a single person, SIS allots $575 for shelter and $285 for other basic necessities such as clothing, utilities and food.
“We’re going to need to keep putting the pressure on to come up with long-term solutions as well,” Clark said.
The bylaw will address zoning and building codes to allow for the emergency shelters.
“It is very frustrating to be in this situation as the city, understanding we’re going to do a lot of work to try to minimize harm this winter,” said Coun. Hilary Gough.
“Some of the policy decisions by the provincial government of late have really thrown fuel on this fire that we’re working to put out.”
The bylaw is to be presented at city council’s Nov. 22 meeting.
Original Article: https://thestarphoenix.com/news/local-news/saskatoon-prepares-bylaw-to-allow-temporary-shelters-amid-rising-homelessness