Some of the residents of Camp Hope — a temporary encampment for people experiencing homelessness — will soon be able to stay at an emergency indoor shelter secured by the City of Regina.
The camp, formerly known as Camp Marjorie, formed a little more than a month ago, as anti-poverty advocates made a desperate move to house the city's homeless. The first tent went up in Regina's Pepsi Park on Oct. 8.
The camp was scheduled to disband on Friday, but that was postponed until Monday, as the new municipally and provincially funded location finishes its preparations.
Now, a little over a month after the camp began, the City of Regina announced Friday that it's secured a six-month lease for a 40-bed interim shelter with food, showers and social support for residents.
City officials said they recognize the shelter is a short-term solution for a long-term problem. It's meant to be a pit stop for those in need of housing as they seek out a more permanent home.
Regina Treaty Status Indian Services will be the main operators of the shelter. Executive director Erica Beaudin did not want to disclose its location, citing privacy concerns for the residents.
"We've had a lot of citizens, whether it's through goodwill or curiosity ... [that] have been driving by [Camp Hope] as though the people who are in the camp are zoo animals or spectacles," she said.
"They are not receiving the privacy and the dignity … that they should have in this society."
Beaudin said the address would be released at a later date.
She doesn't believe that the shelter will have room for everyone at Camp Hope, but said the goal is to meet the needs of residents.
Representatives estimate the camp has 100 to 150 people daily, though Beaudin said a large number of people come during the day to seek food, and there are fewer people at night.
Beaudin said support will be provided to those who can't be accommodated at the new shelter, or other shelters, but she didn't provide specifics.
In an interview with CBC Radio's The Morning Edition, Regina Mayor Sandra Masters told host Stefani Langenegger that the temporary "tent city," as it was first called, demonstrated the need for housing in the city.
"The idea isn't temporary shelter for anyone — the idea is to match them into homes and to match them into the services that they need," she said.
A long-awaited indoor shelter
Shylo Stevenson, communications officer with Regina Needle Recovery and Community Support, said the new shelter comes as a relief. While it won't likely have room for everyone at Camp Hope, it's an improvement, he said.
"We've asked for help and it's here," he said.
"For the people that aren't ready for this next step of moving inside, we'll be there to support them, no matter what. Nobody will be left behind."
In the past month, Stevenson has spent a lot of time supporting residents of the encampment.
"The stuff we've seen in this month is more than what a lot of people see in a lifetime: the community that we built, I never thought it would become what it was," Stevenson said.
"We've had children born. We had death. We had our first fire today. Things that normal communities have, we experienced the same thing … [but] in tents and in a month."
At about 9:30 a.m. on Friday, residents saw flames and smoke at Camp Hope.
Residents grabbed fire extinguishers and made an effort to put the blaze out as firefighters responded.
Stevenson said no one was injured, but three tents were destroyed.
What we know about the facility
Regina city manager Chris Holden said the city went through more than two dozen options before finding the current location. The location was chosen by the city without community consultation because of its urgency, he said.
Asked how those in need would find it, Beaudin said that there is "very little that isn't known when you need to access certain services" in this community. She emphasized that it was not a "secret location."
Officials did note it was on Hamilton Street, north of Dewdney Avenue, and didn't have many residences nearby.
Holden said the facility will cost about $16,000 per month as well as maintenance and upkeep costs. There's also a $500,000 grant from social services available to Treaty Status Indian Services to meet the needs of shelter residents.
Holden doesn't believe the facility has ever been used for residential purposes, but it has been outfitted for fire safety by the fire department and and renovated by the city facilities department.
Residents will be able to stay on a case-by-case basis, depending on how long it takes to get them transitioned into homes, Beaudin said.
It's also expected to be a dry shelter, but residents can enter the facility while under the influence of substances.