24/7 drop-in centre in Regina closing because of lack of funding

The ‘Awasiw: A Place of Hope’ drop-in centre. (Logan Stein/980 CJME)

A Regina drop-in-centre providing an array of different services for the city’s most vulnerable people is shutting its doors.

The All Nations Hope Network (ANHN) is shutting down its Awasiw program due to what is being called a lack of funding.

ANHN director Margaret Kisikaw Piyesis says this could be devastating for the local community.

“We have to make hard decisions, tough decisions. But when there’s no money to pay the people that are serving the community and Awasiw, then there’s no money to do that,” she said.

“It’s sad that Awasiw is closing. Where are the people going to go? That’s what I want to ask.”

Kisikaw Piyesis says the 24-hour drop-in centre opened a little over two years ago to provide shelter, food, harm reduction supplies, addictions support and other services at the start of the pandemic.

She instantly noticed there was a huge need for what was offered at 2735 Fifth Ave., in the North Central neighbourhood.

“Today, we can see up to 900 people in a 24-hour period walking through our doors,” Kisikaw Piyesis claimed. “It’s a huge amount of people that are coming in; they’re not getting all these services or programs at any other place.

“We say we feed the people mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. We’re an Indigenous organization that is practising our Indigenous ways of knowing and doing so we had a lot of unique services and programs available to the people.”

Indigenous elders frequent the centre to provide support for people, and Kisikaw Piyesis says it has shown to have a huge impact on the people coming through its doors.

It costs roughly $800,000 to keep the program operating annually, something she says is not possible without more government support.

“The provincial government gives us about $37,000 a year,” she said. “That’s not even enough to run any type of outreach. It’s not even enough to hire one person to do work.

“So we’ve been asking for money. We’ve been asking for increases. We’re working with a population that’s hard to reach, and we need to provide services to them.”

There are 20 people employed full-time with the drop-in centre. They have all been given layoff notices, with the final day being June 30, according to Kisikaw Piyesis.

The Ministry of Social Services said in a response that it has not received a funding request from the ANHN for over a year.

“In December 2021, the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation announced the transfer of ownership for 2735 5th Avenue in Regina to All Nations Hope Network to support the organization in providing services to people in the community experiencing homelessness,” the written response read. “The Ministry of Social Services has not received a request for funding from All Nations Hope over the past year.”

Kisikaw Piyesis says that’s not true.

“We’ve asked for money. We’ve asked for support. We’ve been at it for 25 years in this province, asking for support from the government,” she said. “We’ve created an Indigenous strategy that had no dollars put toward it.

“Maybe it’s time that people really have a look at what’s going on in Regina, in Saskatchewan and even in Canada.”

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