Critic releases emergency consultation tour final report on the housing crisis
REGINA - Following an emergency consultation tour on Saskatchewan income support programs and the housing crisis in Saskatchewan, Social Services and Housing Critic Meara Conway released a solutions-based report on her findings and called for a comprehensive housing and poverty reduction strategy.
“Across the board, this Sask. Party government has not stepped up when the chips are down. We find ourselves today in a position where poverty is worse and food bank usage has increased despite a period of economic growth in the province,” said Conway. “What we need to be doing is working with those on the frontlines to find comprehensive solutions. This is what responsible governments do - they consult with those who know best.”
Conway’s Report also emphasizes the significant economic fallout of the current approach: “This patchwork system is far more costly overall due to the expenditure of preventable resources across major systems. If we don’t see immediate course correction from this government, Saskatchewan will continue to see an entrenchment of poverty, and the continued waste of public funds on crisis response rather than prevention.” said Conway.
Conway’s tour involved meetings in Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, North Battleford, as well as consultations with Northern, rural, and remote communities where she heard from service providers, income assistance recipients, Ministry of Social Services staff, and landlords. These consultations resulted in a Report on the Housing and Poverty Crisis, outlining solutions to reform income assistance programs and address the poverty and housing crises in Saskatchewan. The Report includes recommendations to:
- Increase income assistance rates, ensure shelter benefits are set based on existing rental market rates, and return to covering the actual cost of utilities for clients.
- Provide Ministry of Social Services staff with the tools to meaningfully assist clients through evidence-based programming, supports, and manageable caseloads.
- Simplify and demystify Ministry processes and create multiple ways for people to access supports: a “no wrong door” policy, including a return to direct payment option for those who need extra support.
- Block fund homeless shelters sufficiently and abandon per diem funding model so community-based organizations have stable and predictable funding.
- Adopt a comprehensive multi-Ministry approach that brings together Justice, Health, Education and Social Services to implement a Housing First plan and implement supportive housing.