Métis Nation-Saskatchewan organized the first annual Housing and Homelessness Conference on Tuesday in Saskatoon.
More than 350 people from all levels of government, service providers, contractors and individuals with lived experiences came together to discuss solutions to the homelessness crisis in Saskatchewan.
Homelessness numbers are going up every year in Saskatchewan and experts are calling it a crisis. Mass evictions during the spring are expected because of the rising cost of living such as utility bills and food, as well as large amounts of fentanyl hitting the streets everywhere in the developed world.
Keynote speaker Joe Roberts, who has lived experience and is now the executive director of Push For Change, says we need to change our outlook on homelessness.
“Sometimes when you are struggling with mental health or substance use, you don’t have the skills to solve your problems on your own. It is not a moral problem, there aren’t any more or less bad people than there were before, but we are experiencing a public health crisis in Canada right now,” Roberts said.
“Our social contract is eroded and people are falling through the cracks.”
During the conference, multiple speakers called for more cooperation of different government levels and non-profits.
Jason Mercredi, the Metis Nation-Saskatchewan’s housing director, said that cooperation and extra funding are the first steps needed in the fight against homelessness.
“We definitely need increased investment, but we also need a plant to go along with these investments. Right now, our efforts are not coordinated and scattershot,” Mercredi said.
“That is why the conference hopes to bring everybody together to get a more coordinated response, that will see governments and communities work together.”
Mercredi predicts a long road ahead and many conferences yet to come until homelessness can be eliminated.
“If I could solve poverty through a conference, it would have been done 10 years ago. We are going to put in some real work if we want to finally get rid of homelessness.”
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