A Prince Albert nurse-instructor has received a grant to examine the roots of homelessness and work for a solution that, hopefully, can be rolled out across the province.
The project is taking a community partnership approach, and has been awarded a $25,000 Partnership Engage grant by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to develop a streamlined approach to addressing homelessness in Prince Albert and beyond.
It’s being led by the University of Saskatchewan and local instructor June Anonson. It project aims to build collaboration among researchers, agencies, community leaders, social agencies, frontline workers and homeless people.
Along with the YWCA, the University of Saskatchewan-led project includes the city, the police force, the health region, River Bank Development Corp/ Saskatchewan Polytechnic, First Nations University, the University of Regina and the Prince Albert Grand Council.
The specific objectives of Anonson’s partnership are to:
- Identify root causes of chronic, episodic and transitional homelessness, and determine the specific needs of homeless persons and how to communicate with them.
- Investigate barriers that face homeless persons and community agencies in order to determine how services can be improved, and develop a collaborative strategy that can be applied in Prince Albert and elsewhere.
Create a comprehensive list of services available in Prince Albert and area, and provide a condensed and laminated version directly to homeless persons. The list will also be translated into at least one of the local Indigenous languages.
While the goal is to create an approach that can be replicated nationally, Anonson recognizes that each community has its own difficulties.
“We have a very unique community demographics as you know in this region. It’s not identical anywhere else in Canada. We have a high Indigenous population. We have issues with addictions. We are a unique group,” she said.
“What we hope is that once we’ve completed this project other places in Canada and North America … can look at what we’ve done and adapt it to their needs, and then utilize that to bring together community members to see if they can make a difference in their community.”
Because Prince Albert has such a high Indigenous population, Anonson was sure to include the grand council, as well as elders, in the project.
Louise Halfe, a First Nations poet and former poet laureate for the province is one of those elders. The other is Florence Allen.
The committee also includes members who are homeless or have been homeless to ensure that voice is captured.
Tackling the homelessness issue is important to Anonson.
“I live in the community and the people on the team also live in the community,” she said.
“It’s something we see with how we live and breathe. We see it with our own eyes. We’re concerned. We want to make sure that all populations within our world, especially our small world, are treated with respect and have the right services and support that they are entitled to.”
Anonson said the project is already creating results. Just by getting people together in the same room who work in this space, they have been able to communicate about what services are already offered. Many are learning about services that already exist in the city, but weren’t widely known beyond a small group of people.
“One of the biggest things this project will do is help with education and help people realize the importance of acknowledging that there’s an issue,” she said.
“Then, seeing what they can do to support and help so this becomes not such a problem in our area.”
She also spoke about the importance of including the city, the police and the health region.
‘Those are three big groups that must be very efficient working together and working with the smaller groups like Homeward Bound. There were people in this group that didn’t even know Homeward Bound existed. Now there’s 20 people who know. It’s making a difference once person at a time,” she said.
Anonson said it’s important the three big heavy hitters — the police, city and health region — are all moving in the same direction with the small organizations.
“If you don’t sit down and have some of these tough discussions, you don’t know if you’re moving in the same direction.”
Overall, Anonson said, she’s excited that the whole committee is as excited about the project as she is.
“Our team consists of people from all different genders, all different ages and all different walks of life,” she said.
“We have some very young researchers that haven’t even graduated from their Baccalaureate programs that are taking part. We have people in their 60s and 70s that are taking part. It’s a beautiful, demographic blended mix. We’re very excited about who wants to be a part of this.
“Every one of us wants to be able to make a difference. It doesn’t matter where we work or where we live. If we can support and help and make a better place to lice, that’s what it’s all about.”