Regina moves a step closer to creating permanent emergency shelter

City council must still approve the $7.5-million plan to create a permanent emergency shelter in Regina.  (Kirk Fraser/CBC - image credit)
City council must still approve the $7.5-million plan to create a permanent emergency shelter in Regina. (Kirk Fraser/CBC - image credit)

After years of funding temporary solutions, the City of Regina is one step closer to having a permanent emergency shelter.

On Wednesday, the city's executive committee voted to fund a $7.5-million plan to create the shelter.

Its location has yet to be revealed, beyond references to it being "an ideal location with easy access to community services, core city areas and public transit."

The city currently has an offer on the property and city council must make a decision at its June 12 meeting if they want to fulfil the option, which expires on June 19. The committee has directed staff to release the potential shelter's location at the June 12 meeting.

Officials have been searching for a suitable shelter space for three years, according to a report presented to the executive committee.

"This vote today, and on [June 12] gives us an opportunity to finish what we started," Coun. Dan LeBlanc (Ward 6) said on Wednesday.

By the time a decision is made, it will be nearly a year since a homeless encampment was established at Regina city hall. A wall of police would clear that encampment at the end of July over safety concerns.

The city currently leases space at the Nest Health Centre, partnering with Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services, who operate a temporary shelter known as New Beginnings.

That space has 55 beds available for those experiencing homelessness. But the city's lease is set to expire in the summer of 2025.

City manager Niki Anderson confirmed the permanent shelter location would house as many people as are currently at New Beginnings.

"I have no doubt that all of you believe that every resident deserves shelter and supports. Where the will of council is somewhat divided is whether or not, with all the financial pressures, council wants to financially invest in a new service," Anderson said.

Information on site to be offered on June 12

Anderson said there has been no engagement with residents or business owners about the proposed shelter since the purchase has not been approved by council.

If the purchase is approved, the city's engagement will "centre on sharing information on the facility and responding to concerns to ensure safety, security and cleanliness," according to the staff report.

The city will be on the hook for $1.5 million of the project's cost, with the provincial and federal governments chipping in $3 million apiece in the form of a forgivable loan and grant.

Despite the motion's passage on Wednesday, not all councillors are happy with the idea.

Coun. Bob Hawkins (Ward 2 ) believes the city should stick to funding things such as policing and roads.

"My concern is if we enter into permanent shelter housing in what is a massive field, a field where there's real need, we will not be able to meet our responsibility to our core services that we provide to the public," Hawkins said.