New temporary shelter for homeless people in Regina set to open before end of the month

A person sleeps in a Regina alleyway in a 2021 photo. A new temporary shelter for people experiencing homelessness is expected to open Jan. 30, and will have 40 spaces. (Rob Kruk/CBC - image credit)
A person sleeps in a Regina alleyway in a 2021 photo. A new temporary shelter for people experiencing homelessness is expected to open Jan. 30, and will have 40 spaces. (Rob Kruk/CBC - image credit)

A new temporary shelter is set to open in Regina for people experiencing homelessness by the end of the month.

The provincial government, City of Regina, Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services (RT/SIS) and The Nest Health Centre are "collaborating on the initiative in response to an immediate need as existing shelters face capacity issues," a Wednesday news release from the city said.

The shelter, expected to open Jan. 30, will have 40 spaces and be operated by RT/SIS, with The Nest providing the space at the former downtown YMCA building, which the health centre now owns and is in the process of renovating.

"When this partnership opportunity came up, it just fit so well with our vision and what we want to provide the community," Neha Jain, communications director at The Nest, said in an interview.

"Basically it's allowing us to leverage the existing space while we continue construction."

The Nest's space is intended to be a full-service health centre in downtown Regina when construction is complete, as well as offering a fitness centre.

The temporary shelter will help also help "support and stabilize some of our most vulnerable patients and residents," Jain said in the city's news release.

The provincial government is providing $400,000 to RT/SIS for operational funding. The city is providing furniture and supplies, and is co-ordinating a minor renovation to the main floor of The Nest to make the space more suitable as a shelter.

Wraparound services will be available on-site to support shelter residents, according to the city, and long-term solutions for homelessness in Regina "continue to be explored."

Once the shelter opens, the city will pause the operation of its warming bus, which was originally announced in mid-November as an "urgently needed alternative shelter" for those in the city who are homeless. It was intended as a stop-gap measure while the city looked for a temporary shelter.

But stopping the operation of the warming bus doesn't make a lot of sense to advocate Alysia Johnson, who works with the organization Rally Around Homelessness. She said support needs to be added, not taken away.

"Every single bed that is added to capacity means one less person who is freezing at night," she said, and she is happy the community will have the temporary space.

But "I don't understand the rationale behind getting rid of the warming bus.... It seems that every time we bring something into the fold, when something else comes along, we just simply take away," said Johnson.

"We can't really build capacity to help our community if we're always giving with one hand and taking with the other."

The temporary shelter coming so late into winter is also a concern, Johnson said.

It's been nearly six years since Regina began work on a plan to end homelessness, she said, but "it's never moved to implementation phase."

"The city, of course, did not provide any kind of real funding solutions in the most recent budget," said Johnson.

"So I would just say that as a community we have a real uphill battle ahead of us, and lip service is not going to cut it. If we're going to announce these types of initiatives, follow through at all levels."