Anti-poverty advocates speak out on SIS program

With the cost of rent and homelessness on the rise in the province, the provincial NDP is calling for the suspension of the Saskatchewan Income Support program

Social Services Critic Meara Conway says there should be a return to direct payments to landlords and a housing strategy for those who will be looking for shelter during the winter months.

Soaring costs is making the SIS program difficult for its recipients says Conway. “We are seeing a rise of cost of living, be it utilities or groceries and to see cuts at this time, in addition to that during the economic difficulties that a pandemic has brought on, it’s simply difficult to phantom to what they are thinking.”

The problems with the SIS program can be dated back to the beginning according to Doreen Lloyd from Carmichael Outreach. She noted the amount of $575 being provided to the recipients of the SIS program to cover housing, utilities and other expenses is simply inadequate. “We had a lot of fear of folks on the budget that was being offered and also how are they going to navigate the system with no damage deposit, no money for utilities. When it was getting close to the crunch everybody was being transitioned, we were seeing a lot of people being displaced.”

Conway along with other anti-poverty advocates spoke today at Pepsi Park, which is hosting Camp Marjorie. Camp Marjorie is a group of residents using that have set up tents inside of the park as they have been unable to find proper long term housing.

Councillor Shanon Zachnidiak said there is task force within the City of Regina to look at the housing problem in the city but added that there needs to be more support from the provincial government. She added that the hotel program where residents are able to check into available hotel rooms is currently unavailable at the citizens disposal.  Zachnidiak said that the City will be waiving bylaws to allow Camp Marjorie to reside in Pepsi Park and that heating sources would be supplied to the occupants.

The Social Services Critic sent a letter to Social Services Minister Lori Carr calling for the end of the SIS program and also asked that a roundtable involving anti-poverty advocates, landlords and government employees work together to create a new housing strategy in the province.

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