Grant first step for plan to address homelessness in Yorkton

The Society for the Involvement of Good Neighbours (SIGN), on behalf of the Yorkton Social Housing Committee, has received a grant of $49,999 to develop a comprehensive housing needs assessment for Yorkton.

The funding is provided by the Community Housing Transformation Centre (the Centre), a Canada‐wide non‐profit and non‐government organization founded in 2018 and supported by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) through Canada’s National Housing Strategy. The Centre believes everyone deserves a safe, affordable place to call home. It works toward a more entrepreneurial and economically viable model of community housing.

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This funding allows SIGN and the Social Housing Committee to address and mitigate the growing homelessness in Yorkton through a comprehensive needs assessment. After completion of the project, SIGN and its partners will be able develop a plan to increase safe, permanent and affordable housing in Yorkton, and take steps to develop homes and support for hard‐to‐house or homeless individuals and families based on the needs identified.

The needs assessment is expected to be completed by May 31, 2021.

The Social Housing Committee is made up of 14 agencies in Yorkton who have been working to reduce barriers for individuals and families accessing affordable housing. Represented are Yorkton Housing Corporation, Good Spirit Housing Authority, Regional Housing Operations, Yorkton Parkland Housing, Yorkton Transitional Homes for Youth, Shelwin House, Saskatchewan Health Authority, SaskAbilities,   City of Yorkton, Yorkton Fire Protective Services, Parkland College, Yail Harbour, Habitat for Humanity and SIGN and SIGN Housing Support.   

Each member agency will provide information that is required to conduct an accurate needs assessment, will be involved in the stakeholder interviews, will assist in the development of the research and help determining what the committee's next steps will be to develop housing units.

The study will allow the committee to better assess the types of housing needed in the city for vulnerable and at‐risk people, and to consider options for secure funding to developing housing that is   sustainable and secure in efforts to end homelessness and hidden homelessness in the city.  

With no emergency shelter in Yorkton and no public transportation to get to one two hours away, individuals are often forced into hidden homelessness. They are forced to couch surf, live in crowded or unsafe environments, seek shelter in business lobbies or the emergency rooms.

"With the information provided by the needs assessment, SIGN and the Social Housing Committee can advocate for the homeless and seek the funding that is required to obtain affordable, safe, secure housing," SIGN Executive Director Andrew Sedley stated. "This needs assessment to gather the important data is the first step to move towards reducing homelessness in our city.

"Saskatchewan has reported the highest rates of homelessness across Canada. Yorkton is no exception. Prior to Covid‐19 Yorkton had already begun to experience a shift where affordable housing became more difficult to secure. Various theories exist why there is a lack of affordable housing and an inability for many households to be able to afford certain locations, but no concrete evidence exists to validate these claims," Sedley added.

Similar assessments have been done, the latest in 2014, "But SIGN and the Social Housing Committee found that while these studies provided extensive data, they were short on practical recommendations toward easing the housing situation. An updated study is required to allow the community stakeholders to take the necessary course of action."

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