New $63M plan to fight homelessness in Regina announced

Regina's new plan to end homelessness, a strategy that has been in the works since April 2018, was unveiled at the YMCA's downtown location on Thursday.

The plan will unfold over five years and cost $63 million. Of that, $25 million is for capital costs while the other $38 million will maintain the program.

"The real cost, when the human, health and social benefits are considered, is far less," a news release said.

"If the status quo in Regina were to remain, it would cost public systems approximately $75 million over the next five years."

It's expected that during the operation of the program, around 2,200 people will be served, including the chronically and episodic homeless population in the city.

With only 30 spots for homeless people to stay currently available in the city, $15 million will be earmarked to build additional spaces.

Takes a toll

A plan like the one announced Thursday might have allowed Roy Ironchild to spend a few more nights indoors rather than seeking warmth in vents during cold Saskatchewan nights, the Regina man said..

Ironchild became homeless after a bad separation around six years ago. He said his life spiralled downward from there.

"I failed to kind of adjust. There was a lot of coping mechanisms I needed at the time," Ironchild told CBC Radio's The Morning Edition.

"I was out and about. I was out in the alleys; I was out in the parkades; I was out in abandoned buildings. You name it, I was out there."

Victoria Dinh/CBC

Ironchild slept anywhere he could — construction sites, heating vents — even in –40 C windchill. He said he would sometimes wake up to find someone left him food or money, but he still had to become very resourceful and alert. 

It was necessary to survive. 

"You, generally, after years and years, you get used to always keeping one eye open, you know when sleep," Ironchild said. "So, like physically that takes a toll on you." 

That's not a problem for Ironchild any more, who has since moved into housing with the Phoenix Residential Society.

It was a lot of work and a highly stressful situation, as a friend of his was homeless as well, he said. Ironchild said he saw a lot of his buddies getting off the street because of Phoenix and eventually got his own place to call home.

"It was like winning the lottery," he said.

The biggest thing for Ironchild was having a sanctuary. A place to live allowed him to do things that so many take for granted, like making plans with friends.

Ironchild said he hopes the new homelssness plan brings more awareness and clears up some misconceptions about homeless people. He said guilt and shame compounded all the other struggles he faced during homelessness.

"I just felt pretty, pretty bad about it and that kind of beat me down about it. ... I had to persevere."