Regina city council voted against declaring a houselessness emergency in the Queen City on Wednesday night.
A houselessness emergency would have called for, but not guaranteed, immediate action that includes funding from both the federal and provincial governments, the creation of a temporary barrier free shelter, funding to address houselessness in the 2024 city budget and a safety checklist for encampments currently around the city.
The motion was voted down 6-2.
“At the end of the day what you saw from council in the majority was that the motion itself if I were to summarize councillors’ comments was performative and we [already] have a plan to end homelessness and we have clearly outlined within that plan our investment which we have far exceeded,” Regina Mayor Sandra Masters said following the decision.
After the decision was made some members of the gallery in city hall were ejected from the meeting after shouting broke out indicating that whether or not enough is being done to address houselessness in Regina and remains a contentious issue.
Prior to the meeting, a pop-up soup kitchen greeted councillors as they arrived at city hall.
“I want to see some action especially before the snow falls, what is the plan here and what can we do long-term as well,” community activist Alejandra Cabrera told CTV News.
Dan LeBlanc was one of the councillors initially pushing for the declaration.
“I hope we get a credible plan to keep folks warm and alive and hopefully more than that, housed in a dignified way before the snow falls,” LeBlanc told CTV news as he grabbed something to eat at the pop-up soup kitchen.
In an interview with CTV Morning Live Thursday, Masters said a current low-barrier shelter expanded to 50 spaces will be open past Sept. 30.
“We have an announcement that will continue past September 30 and then working with the provincial government to determine the balance of space that is needed,” she said.
A low-barrier shelter would allow those in need to stay if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol or have been banned from other shelters.
“There are still going to be rules regardless of where you go because there are human beings who are staff members that also need to be kept safe,” Masters said. “Some of our biggest challenges are those that are banned from other shelters due to behaviour.”
Masters said a prominent issue is being able to show up at the shelter ‘under the influence’.
“That 24 hour access to warming care is probably the second [largest] barrier just to make sure that we can keep folks warm,” Masters said.
The motion to declare a ‘houselessness emergency’ was first brought forward by councillors Shanon Zachidniak, Cheryl Stadnichuk, Andrew Stevens and Dan LeBlanc.