Downtown Community Support team receives funding from Regina council

A program designed for the safety and security of Regina’s Downtown will continue after receiving funding from the City.

The Community Support Program, initiated by the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District (RDBID), received a one-time grant of $200,000 to continue the program into 2022.

Judith Veresuk, the Executive Director of the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District and Project Manager for the Community Support Program, said there was a real need for the program.

“2020 brought us COVID, which really shone a light on the challenges being faced by the most vulnerable in our community,” she said. “The lack of vehicle and pedestrian traffic, combined with the closure of many social services and community organizations, created the perfect environment for safety and security issues in downtown and throughout the City.”

The program was developed with the City of Regina and community-based organizations was launched in June as a pilot program. Since then, it has seen many successes over the last year.

The program has picked up over 200 needles, distributed water, coffee, and healthy snacks to individuals in need, deescalated multiple altercations in Victoria Park, and housed three individuals temporarily.

Regina Mayor Sandra Masters said it was a no-brainer for council to approve the initiative.

“We are trying to make sure vulnerable residents within the downtown are having immediate needs met, whether that means shelter or where there could be access to washrooms, but also to provide a bit of a friendly intervention from them, so there not walking into businesses,” she said. “Businesses may to have the same skillset and the same training to deal with some of the issues relative to either addictions or mental illness, or even just people who are agitated because they are frustrated with the current circumstances.”

“The ability of really calming and well-trained, good-spirited folks running that kind of interference is really important. It’s been reducing nuisances calls to the police. We just think that it’s a good initiative both for downtown, for the businesses, for the public, for the people that live downtown, and for the residents who may be experiencing difficulties and issues,” she continued.

Masters the success of the program is attributed to the team members from the program.

“I think anytime we can show compassion and kindness to people, and from a community base, I think the better, and I think the success of the program has been really welcome and one extra step in that harm reduction and just in that feeling of safety downtown.”

The team members reached over 800 hours of on-street presence, resulting in 681 interactions with over half being outreached based (mental health, wellness checks, food/water, shelter, first aid), with 85 per cent of the team interactions in the low severity range.

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