The support centre for the homeless will itself be getting a new home. Late on Feb. 27, Regina’s city council approved the relocation of Carmichael Outreach Inc. The organization's future location, which has been vacant in the Heritage community for over a decade, is just a few blocks from their current space on Osler Street.
“We’d like to develop life skills programs that suit the needs of our folks here,” said Cora Gajari, executive director at Carmichael Outreach. Currently unable to implement life skills programs due to lack of space, Gajari said the move will help immensely in providing space for more programs. “Other programs don’t suit their needs because some of the life skills that they need to learn are quite basic. Even talking about budgeting can go beyond the scope of some of their capacities,” she said.
In favour of the rezoning, Regina city councillor Barbara Young cited some other benefits to expect with the move. “People won’t be congregating in the front on the street as they do now,” said Young. “They’ll be able to come in and sit down for meals, and they have a lot of programming now, too, that they’ll be able to do inside the building, which they couldn’t do in the old building.”
Carmichael Outreach has been dedicated to ending poverty and homelessness in Regina for 28 years. They assist those in need by providing meals, clothing, art programs, and support for both housing and harm reduction. The mission of the organization is, “To foster empowerment through dignity, respect, and advocacy in our community.”
The Heritage Community Association board of directors wrote in a statement that residents look forward to welcoming Carmichael Outreach into the area, and to see life brought back to an old building. “They want Carmichael to be able to expand and improve the quality and dignity of their services, and they see this property as being a suitable new home for the organization,” wrote the Heritage Community Association.
Gajari explained that the most beneficial part of the move will likely be the changes to the food recovery program because clients will no longer have to line up outside the building for meals. “Currently we cannot serve inside the building because of health codes, and people have to line up, which is bad enough when you need go get a meal, and worse when you have to stand out in -40 C weather,” said Gajari.
The Heritage Community Association board also noted in their statement some concerns that have come from community members. “The main concerns we have heard are: decreased property values (and a resulting increase in absentee landlords), increased crime and litter, and decreased safety.”
Also in favour of the move, city councillor Joel Murray explained the wariness of some community members. “I think the concerns that were brought forward to city council were valid concerns,” said Murray. “They talked about infrastructure and heavier traffic in the area, and they didn’t say they don’t want it there, all they said was, ‘Are you sure this is the right location, and do you have enough information to make this decision?’ As a council, we appreciated the concerns.”
Last year, Carmichael Outreach helped 440 adults in the city. Fifty-nine per cent identified as Indigenous, 38 per cent as non-Indigenous, and three per cent as newcomers to Canada according to the organization's annual report.
“To have the dignity to be able to sit down and have a meal and be social if you like, that’s going to be immeasurably better,” said Gajari. Carmichael Outreach hopes to move into their new location on the corner of 12th Avenue and St. John Street by fall 2017.