Accidental fires in abandoned buildings raise issues over homelessness

Concerns were raised in the Legislature Wednesday over the number of burned houses in inner city neighbourhoods.

Some incidents have been attributed to homeless people taking shelter in abandoned buildings and starting fires to stay warm. The opposition blamed changes to social services programs but the government said proper housing is available.

Francis Desjarlais is living on the street and said he takes shelter wherever he can.

“I just crash out on the benches. In the 40 below weather, I was out in the freezing cold,” he said.

Desjarlais said he can’t find an apartment with the housing allowance provided by Social Services.

“Government gives you $600 a month for rent and basically we need about $1,000 to get a one bedroom,” he said.

The situation has been brought to the attention of the legislature.

“Houses in Regina are literally burning down because people without options are breaking into abandoned buildings just to stay warm at night,” said NDP MLA Meara Conway.

Lori Carr, Minister of Social Services said housing is made available to those who ask.

“We have the opportunity to put them up in a hotel for the evening and then the next day we try to meet with that individual and work on a plan with them on how to get them some stable housing, she said.”

Nicole Neisner with Warriors of Hope said that working with people experiencing homelessness is not that simple.

“Social Services does not find housing. They write checks so people can have housing. So we are relying on CBOs to get housing and everybody is running around like crazy,” she said.

Shylo Stevenson with Warriors of Hope said he is trying to help a man who is losing his apartment on Thursday.

So with Regina Housing in our interview today, it was just sort of wait until next week and then we have a 14 day process and everything and we don’t know if we have any open units. Well let’s go for a walk. I can point a lot of empty units out to you,” he said.

Some groups feel the government needs to take a more active role in locating housing for those who are searching. They feel the current system is leaving too many people out on the street.

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