Families headed by single parents with more than one child, who stay in other people’s homes for a few months at a time or move from shelter to shelter, are among the invisible homeless of Saskatoon.
They’re often young, have never had a place of their own and have no landlord references. Often they have no credit rating, no job or current address to provide when applying for assistance through the social services and no one to take care of their children so they can work.
Sometimes, they live in motels because coming up with $2,000 or more that it might cost to move into rental accommodation is beyond their means, said Charlotte Leoppky, the Housing First for families case manager at the White Buffalo Youth Lodge (WBYL).
“A lot of these people are on our provincial social programs… They have to take money out of their food money to cover their rent. There’s layer after layer why they have these challenges,” Leoppky said.
The housing first family program, which has helped about 45 families move into decent, stable housing, is one three programs in Saskatoon to receive additional funding from the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy, which provided about $2 million this year to the Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP), which administers the federal funding here.
The WBYL housing first for families program will receive a $16,000 top up, bringing this year’s funding to almost $215,000, said SHIP executive director Shaun Dyck.
Another $34,ooo will be used to build a proper meeting room for the program there.
The Saskatoon Tribal Council’s Cress Housing Corp. will receive $686,000 over two years toward the purchase of three duplexes that will be used for the family housing first program.
The Tribal Council’s Urban First Nations Services will get $143,000 to help replace an existing transitional home for children whose parents are working to regain custody of them. The fully staffed home, which is an alternative to foster care, will have 15 beds — two more than the current 13.
“Our most vulnerable kids and all of our kids deserve a safe, healthy environment,” said Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas.
A range of housing first programs through SHIP have puts roofs over the heads of more than 500 people in Saskatoon since 2014.
It may cost $1,000 a month to house a homeless person, but just one night in hospital can cost $1,000, he said.
“These are probably the best investments as society we can make, providing good quality care and homes for people.” Thomas said.
Mayor Charlie Clark said the partnership between all levels of government, including the tribal council is the best way to prevent people falling through the cracks.
“Having programs that (understand) the reality and the intergenerational trauma and the impact of the residential schools, is part of the process of healing that people need to go through the break those cycles,” he said.