Residents and community leaders say poverty and homelessness on the rise in Sask.


Lorraine Matechuck says she and her household in Regina are on the cusp of homelessness.

“Either I’m going to pay hire and payments or purchase meals. It’s too heartless a scramble,” she mentioned.

“It’s not getting any higher, solely getting worse. I’m depressed.”

Monday is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Saskatchewan residents and community leaders say poverty is deepening in the province, with revenue help packages pushing extra into meals insecurity and homelessness.

Matechuck’s household is on the Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) program, which was introduced as a manner for individuals on help to turn into “extra self-sufficient.” Rather than the authorities paying hire and utility prices on to landlords, SIS offers month-to-month cheques to individuals in the program. 

Matechuck and her husband obtain $1,019 below SIS, and her son receives $850. Their hire is $1,120, leaving the household in a decent spot.

“We get threatened by utility firms and we had been reduce off for a month with out sizzling water and warmth,” she mentioned, noting that her husband wants sizzling water for his arthritis.

“Inflation is skyrocketing and I am unable to sustain with SIS. It’s affecting younger and previous individuals.”

Lorraine Matechuck says she doesn’t need her grandchildren to should see her turn into homeless. (Don Somers/ CBC)

Matechuck mentioned her household has particular dietary wants, and that grocery payments have risen to $600 from $200 resulting from inflation. She is aware of many, together with her aunt, whose utilities have been reduce off, forcing them to maneuver into encampments.

“I do not need my grandchildren to go to their grandma in a tent. I’m scared I’ll be going homeless,” the 61-year-old mentioned.

“The system is abusive to households, kids and elders. It’s based mostly on neglect.”

According to a 2021 University of Regina research, 19 per cent of Saskatchewan’s inhabitants lives in poverty. The little one poverty fee is even greater at 26 per cent, the second highest fee in the nation.

The Ministry of Social Services mentioned that in August, 35,525 individuals had been on revenue helps. Of these, 18,590 had been on Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) and the remaining on SIS.

“The advantages we offer are a few of the most beneficiant in the nation,” Social Services Minister Gene Makowsky mentioned.

When questioned on the authorities’s plan to alleviate poverty, Makowsky mentioned the revenue help packages and the $500 Saskatchewan Affordability Tax Credit cheques “will assist the people.”

“If you’ve gotten a household with kids, you obtain rather more. We work exhausting to have a superb sturdy economic system to have the ability to afford these expenditures. We produce other help for youngsters in danger,” he mentioned.

He famous that the price of residing is comparatively low in Saskatchewan.

Saskatoon resident Karen Swan mentioned Saskatchewan is miles away from eradicating poverty.

“Gene Makowsky could have been a superb soccer participant, however he has no clue on the subject of poverty,” Swan mentioned. 

The 60-year-old was born with one kidney and is on SAID. She lives with complicated PTSD following abusive marriages, agoraphobia and panic dysfunction, and was just lately identified with a thyroid tumour.

“I even have a mind tumour. I’ve had two bodily surgical procedures and a radiation surgical procedure in Winnipeg. It’s nonetheless there and can take me out any day.”

‘It’s costly to be poor’

Swan receives $1,200, of which $500 goes for inexpensive housing. 

“It’s costly to be poor. I am unable to go to the native Safeway. I am going to Dollarama, Dollar Store and generally I’ll go to Krazy Binz for his or her $1 and $3 days. I pick my garments from storage gross sales.”

Swan mentioned she must be maintaining a healthy diet resulting from her well being issues, however that it’s too costly.

“I am unable to afford that meals, however by some means I’m the welfare bum bleeding the system dry. Bite me!”

Karen Swan says she can not afford the nutritious meals she wants. (Kayla Guerrette/ CBC)

Swan struggles to pay for gasoline to journey for medical appointments, not to mention go to her son in Edmonton. Her different son can be on SAID and has “to show yearly to the authorities that he’s blind,” she mentioned.

Swan mentioned policymakers ought to attempt residing on what SAID recipients are given. 

“The authorities ought to have some freaking compassion.”

In Qu’Appelle, some 50 kilometres east of Regina, Arlo Yuzicapi is in the identical boat.

The 63-year-old is on SAID resulting from her Charcot-Marie-Tooth illness. 

Yuzicapi receives $743 from mentioned, resulting from being in rural Saskatchewan and on the Canada Pension Plan. With a rental subsidy of $173, she is “managing” her lodging.

“I want bodily help at dwelling and have my youngest son residing with me, who’s on SIS. People assume it is low-cost right here, however now we have to journey to get groceries and different companies. That now not less than prices $30 a visit.”

Arlo Yuzicapi says it’s tough to make ends meet on SAID program even residing in rural Saskatchewan. (Submitted by Arlo Yuzicapi)

Yuzicapi stockpiled frozen and canned items throughout the pandemic, however they’re working out.

“I’m not getting vitamin in my weight loss program, with inflation growing the costs, to maintain me alive and get pleasure from my life,” she mentioned.

“I do not know the way they count on any of us on SIS or SAID to reside.”

Yuzicapi mentioned a $30 allowance for a cellphone will not be sufficient for even primary plans.

“If you complain about it, you’re instructed to be grateful,” she mentioned.

‘Poverty is worsening in Saskatchewan’

The charges on SAID haven’t modified in the previous seven years. Peter Gilmer, an advocate with the Regina Anti-poverty Ministry, is asking on the authorities to boost it. 

He mentioned SAID beneficiaries have seen cuts to helps for hire and particular wants since 2015.

Gilmer mentioned these packages are furthering poverty and meals insecurity in the metropolis. The shelter allowance for each housing and utilities is $600 per thirty days in Regina and Saskatoon, and $550 in the remainder of Saskatchewan. Gilmer mentioned these advantages don’t enhance with household dimension, as a household of three or extra kids solely receives $1,175 for housing and utility prices in Regina. Saskatoon and the remainder of the province receives $875. The primary grownup allowance for different bills is $315 per thirty days.

He mentioned earlier packages had extra classes to compensate for the improve in kids. Now, households with three kids or seven kids obtain the identical quantity.

“Poverty is worsening in Saskatchewan. While the price of residing is growing, advantages aren’t,” he mentioned.

Peter Gilmer says each SIS and SAID packages are insufficient. (Don Somers/ CBC)

He mentioned the SIS profit must be elevated by $300 per thirty days and that the province wants a long-term plan to boost individuals above the poverty line, as many are in debt.

“Both packages are insufficient, forcing individuals to choose between paying payments or having meals,” he mentioned.

Gilmer mentioned one in 4 kids in Saskatchewan are under the poverty line.

A Canadian making lower than $22,518 after tax is taken into account under the poverty line, in line with information cited in a 2021 report from Campaign 2000, a nationwide coalition of organizations that work towards ending poverty in Canada.

Gilmer mentioned individuals on SIS don’t meet “midway to the poverty line,” and these on SAID are hundreds under. 

‘Deadly winter approaching’

Len Usiskin, govt director of Quint Development Corp. — a not-for-profit that works to offer inexpensive and transitional housing in Saskatoon — mentioned homelessness is proliferating.

“I’ve been working in the core neighbourhood for over 25 years now and by no means seen it this unhealthy,” he mentioned.

Usiskin mentioned encampments are popping up throughout the metropolis, and with the closure of some beds at the Lighthouse, extra are unsheltered. He mentioned even minimal wage is nowhere near a residing wage in Saskatchewan.

“It’s a really lethal winter approaching for homeless individuals in the metropolis, with much less shelter beds and extra individuals trying,” he mentioned.

“We did not have sufficient beds final 12 months.”

Len Usiskin worries it is going to be a lethal winter for the unsheltered. (Kayla Guerrette/ CBC)

Usiskin mentioned shelter beds are brief time period and the authorities must work on long-term options.

“There is a giant disconnect between the authorities saying their social coverage is a hit and what we’re seeing on the floor.”


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