146 people died due to exposure in Sask. over past decade: report

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146 people died due to exposure in Sask. over past decade: report

Dozens of support workers and community leaders gathered Friday to discuss the need for a plan to help end homelessness in Regina. 

Among them was Cora Gajari of Carmichael Outreach, who afterwards said she knows of at least one man who died this winter due to exposure.

"He was not homeless, but again, he was one of those folks who had been housed but did not have the follow-up supports in order to maintain that housing and reach some kind of stability," Gajari said. 

"It was devastating and it's always devastating."

From 2007 to 2017, 146 people have died in Saskatchewan due to exposure to the cold, according to new statistics released by the Office of the Chief Coroner.

People died from the cold in both urban and rural areas. Drugs or alcohol played a factor in about 100 of the deaths.

"At the time the data was compiled for exposure deaths, there was a single coroner's report for exposure death in 2017-18," a Ministry of Justice spokesperson wrote in an email to CBC News, saying it could take months for a report to be finalized. 

The report also indicates there could be deaths not reflected in the statistics. 

'We lose people'

Regina's police chief said they offer emergency night shelter for individuals with no warm place to go. They have provided refuge to about a dozen people this season.   

"In fact, I just saw it in the watch log the other day that we provided some night shelter for two gentleman that knocked on our door and essentially said, 'It's too cold out here, we need a place to stay," Evan Bray said. 

"We lose people. We have people in our community that die as a result of cold weather and that they don't have a home to go to. That's a problem."

For Kendra Giles, who supervises the housing program at the Phoenix Residential Society, the risk of exposure and homelessness go "hand in hand."

"We see a lot of individuals that are homeless and that is always a fear when they walk out our door in winter: If they don't find a place to go, are we going to see them again?"

She said she wants to know how many exposure deaths occurred in Regina and how many of those who died were homeless.