YORKTON - Angela Chernoff is in charge of Bruno’s Place in Yorkton. She recently attended the Building Community – The Saskatchewan Housing and Homelessness Conference hoping initially to network with others involved in operating temporary shelters in the province.
Over two days in March, service providers, government representatives and people with a history of homelessness came together to discuss solutions, best practices and government policies to tackle the growing issue.
But, the conference ended up being more than expected.
“They (Métis Nation–Saskatchewan MN–S) did an incredible job of putting it on. I was hoping it would be a networking opportunity but it was also learning more about homelessness in the province,” she told Yorkton This Week.
Chernoff said in some ways the conference was too informative with sessions held concurrently, meaning she had to chose which to attend.
“I would have loved one more day, the opportunity to go to more panel discussions,” she said. “All of the information was just so good.”
That doesn’t mean Chernoff came home with a bunch of things to implement immediately, in-part because Bruno’s Place is so new itself.
“We’re still so new,” said Chernoff, adding it’s a bit early in the process to be adding new things to the local program.
But, Chernoff did network with workers from a shelter in the Battlefords.
Again, it wasn’t a case of delving into operational details to compare at the conference, but they made a connection Chernoff hopes they can build on.
Chernoff said the situation is not the same in the Battlefords, but the goals to provide help to the homeless is.
“They have a different set of challenges,” she said, noting the Battlefords shelter is making daily calls regarding overdoses and drug-related issues.
Locally that is not the case at Bruno’s Place, said Chernoff.
“It’s definitely a different situation up there,” she said.
But there are commonalties too, such as need in general for more resources to deal with homelessness, said Chernoff. In that regard it is a similar issue right across the province, including rural areas.
In fact, when it comes to rural homelessness, they are just starting to realize how widespread to problem is.
“There’s a lot of unknowns with that topic,” said Chernoff.
The situation is hard to track, because homeless can be transient. For example, someone might get help to a medical appointment in a city, but then sort of be stuck there, said Chernoff.
“Losing bus service in the province was huge,” she said, adding it was a move that has led to a greater need for temporary shelter.
There was also a broader realization coming out of the conference that in some case money is in place to help, but those in need may not know how to access, and those providing help need to do a better job of informing people how to apply for the money, said Chernoff.
Chernoff said she hopes the conference leads to more meetings to share information, as that is a key to addressing the issue of homelessness.
“There’s more realization province wide something needs to be done,” she said, adding it will take some new thinking too.
“We have to think outside the box to move forward.”