Dozens of concerned citizens marched through Regina on Monday demanding an increase in the allowance rate provided by the Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) program.
“We’re basically trying to prove to Social Services Minister Laurie Carr that people are homeless and that the SIS program is a failed program and should be scrapped,” said Patton Byrne, a real estate lawyer and organizer who led the walk from Carmichael Outreach to the Broad Street Income Assistance office.
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“They don’t get enough for the rent, and on top of that they take away the landlord’s direct salary, which means they’re getting a quarter, instead of paying the landlord directly to make sure their rent is paid. They are expected to pay rent and pay for everything, as well as their landlords. ”
With the recent increase in rates announced in the 2022-23 budget, a single adult living in SIS outside the Northern Administration District will soon receive সুবিধা 315 of the most basic adults and $ 600 living in Saskatoon or Regina (different if clients are outside these major urban centers). .
Basic amenities increased by $ 30, whereas asylum facilities increased by $ 25.
Various other benefits are available through the SIS program to meet the specific challenges of the clients assigned by the province.
But Byrne maintains that this increase is not enough to ensure housing stability for SIS clients.
“One dollar a day doesn’t help me pay my rent. Not even a dollar a day helps me get a bagel, ”Byrne said.
“When you ask for a roof over your head, a dollar a day is really a slap in the face. It does nothing but allow them to say ‘we did something’.
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The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Peoples has called on the Saskatchewan government to change its SIS program.
Saskatchewan opponents have also criticized SIS in recent months.
Social Services critic Mera Conway, who wrote a report on the program earlier this year, renewed her criticism in the legislature on Monday.
“I think it’s sad that people are taking to the streets to demand a change in program. I think it shows that people are losing faith in the minister, “said Conway.
“These rates are expected to cover utilities, and people under the previous program covered their utilities in addition to the amount of shelter, so for some people, this represents a cut in the hundreds of dollars, because they no longer have those rates.” Directly covered. “
In its January report, Conway cited Saskatchewan Landlords Association (SLA) data that 31 percent of all SIS clients had not paid their September rent and another 18 percent were in arrears.
To further reinforce his conclusion that poverty and housing insecurity are on the rise in Saskatchewan, Conway also cites preliminary results from a 2021 point-in-time homeless calculation conducted in Regina in September.
Preliminary reports from the survey show that about 71 percent more people were found to be homeless in one way or another than a similar survey was conducted in 2018.
“I have heard from almost every community-based organization in the homeless service sector that the number of people facing homelessness has increased dramatically; More clients say they are on the road, and the number of clients has increased with the depth of demand, ”project coordinator Addison Docherty told Global News in December.
Conway also noted that people in SIS are not eligible for Saskatchewan housing benefits, and noted the discontinuation of the Saskatchewan rental housing supplement, which offered marginal residents an additional সুবিধা 336 in shelter before SIS began, “the most significant cuts.” .
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In response to the criticism, Carr noted that the overall growth of new investments in SIS is about $ 14 million.
“I did not speak directly to the group. They did not contact me, so I did not speak to them, “said Carr.
“But I think the increase we’ve made is one step further… and we’ll evaluate it as we move forward.”
In response to the landlord’s call for a return on direct payments, which was a feature of previous income support activities, a change made in November to some direct payments has been well received.
“We see that most clients of the SIS program pay their bills themselves,” he said.
“And we need to consider that this is not a complete income method, it is not the only means that these people necessarily believe. So we work with all clients on an individual basis and receive it from there.”
Carr repeatedly referred to the Metry report that the Saskatchewan income support rate was “the highest across Canada.”
Byron, meanwhile, said he plans to continue assessing the side as well as how many marches through the streets could make sense.
“We know him very well at the moment, so we don’t expect him to walk out of the legislature tonight and say, ‘Take this! Living wages, ” he said.
“But I hope it’s going to make him think, and maybe he’ll just sit down and start planning. Honestly, that’s what we want, we just want him to sit down and listen to people.”
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