USask and Saskatoon Fire Department collaborate on housing insecurity project – Saskatoon

University of Saskatchewan researchers are working with the Saskatoon Fire Department to learn more about gaps in social services and bylaws that are in place to fight housing insecurity and homelessness.

“With this research project, we thought it would be beneficial … looking into why was this house closed in the first place? Often when we’re stepping in and closing a house, the problem didn’t appear overnight,” said Melissa McHale with the Saskatoon Fire Department’s fire bylaw enforcement division.

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“If we deem a house to be uninhabitable, as a last resort, we’ll issue a notice of closure on a house. We’ve had to do that where there’s people, family, pets living in the houses.”

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McHale said the fire department is responsible for closing buildings if they become unsafe and that can lead to displacing residents from their homes.

Nazmi Sari, the department head of economics at USask’s college of arts and science, said there were several municipal policies in place that could lead to unintended consequences.

The research project will also be looking into economic polices revolving around housing supports and if more are needed.

“If you look at financial policies by the local, provincial, or federal government, there are not enough of those things. They are inadequate,” Sari said.

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“I hope that this project will help us to identify the right type of policies, or go over the policies we have and identify which are the best ones, or which are somewhat working and how we need to modify them.”

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Frontline responders like fire investigators and bylaw inspectors will be surveyed to see how bylaws in the city are helping or harming housing and homelessness in Saskatoon.

McHale said she hopes this project will help develop more proactive policies, adding that a better understanding of what leads to homelessness could potentially help in creating those policies.

“Even just more organizations collaborating together,” McHale said. “Just identifying some of those gaps or maybe how people fall through the cracks, anything that we could do or recommendations we could make to other agencies to prevent this problem before it gets there.”

“Having the city on the same page, interested and willing to work with and consider revising their policies, it’s a great experience because you feel your research has some potential to contribute to policy,” Sari said.

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