City Council still seeing major backlash over homelessness

Regina’s City Council approved its first 2-year budget on December 16 and it wasn’t approved without controversy.

One of the main arguments during the budget was on the homelessness motion which had a plan to eradicate homelessness in the city within two years.

City Manager Niki Anderson decided not to include the motion in the proposed budget which led to Councillor Dan LeBlanc and Councillor Andrew Stevens filing a court order against her.

The order was then denied by the court and the city budget was passed without any traces of the motion.

Almost a week after the budget was finalized, Regina is seeing temperatures in the -30s and the conversation around homelessness has not ended.

LeBlanc took to Facebook and gave his statement on the situation and he expressed how disappointed he is.

He claims in his statement that the money proposed in the city manager’s report for the ending homelessness motion was blown out of proportion from the professionally estimated numbers they received from local housing organizations such as Phoenix Residential Society and Namerind Housing.

The City Manager’s report estimated a cost of $25 million annually with $100 million in capital while the local housing organizations estimated it would be roughly $13.3 million annually with no capital which is almost a $12 million discrepancy.

Leblanc says that the city manager made the estimates in her report based on the opinion that new housing had to be built in order to house the homeless.

However, the local housing organizations who do this kind of work say this is not necessary since they claim that there are currently 1700 vacant units available in the city.

There was no explanation provided as to why the city manager’s report disagreed with the estimates provided by the housing organizations.

“The budget estimates provided are just grossly inaccurate I would say and demonstrably under-researched and the huge preposterous estimate number had the effect of scaring many in the community and on council,” LeBlanc told 620CKRM.

40 delegates went to the budget deliberations and spoke to the importance of having this support from the council.

Many people spoke about how the motion was a step towards reconciliation as many people who attended the deliberations as a delegate were Indigenous.

LeBlanc said it was a beautiful display of community but their stories and pleas fell on deaf ears as it seemed most of the council predecided against the ending homelessness motion.

He also says that the council has likely lost some public trust due to this decision.

“I tried to have the City stand with our vulnerable neighbours. We failed. There’s nothing embarrassing about being on the losing side of that vote. It’s embarrassing – and shameful – to be on the winning side of it,” says LeBlanc in his Facebook statement.

LeBlanc isn’t the only one unhappy.

Rally Around Homelessness is an advocacy group in Regina that feels the public was robbed of an open debate on the funding to end homelessness.

“The people that are in a position of power who could have made the choice to ask Reginians to chip in 8 or 9 dollars a month to support ending homelessness or at the very least a few nickels each month for an overnight warming shelter, instead chose nothing,” says Alysia Johnson, a volunteer with Rally Around Homelessness.

“To me, that is how little they (city council) think of our citizens and how little they think we care for our neighbours in crisis. I would venture to say that most people would do that for those who are suffering the most.”

Along with LeBlanc, Johnson also says that city council’s assessment of building brand-new housing for the homeless is not necessary.

She says that it’s simply not true that Regina doesn’t already have the space.

“That’s hogwash to me. I’m involved with an organization that does a lot of this type of work and I’ve just had a discussion with the Minister of Social Services and was trying to advance the discussion of how to help get some of those vacant Sask. housing units into the hands of someone who’s capable of utilizing them and these are constant discussions we’re having,” says Johnson.

In a statement on the Rally Around Homelessness Facebook page it says,”The actions of council this week will lead to new evictions, and will lead to further pressure on communities to manage a growing crisis.”

 

 

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