A key step in establishing a new temporary emergency shelter in downtown Saskatoon is coming up later this month.
The Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) and several organizations have partnered in a proposal with “long-term potential” to help the city’s homeless population.
“Due to COVID, addictions and mental health are worse, and homelessness is high. We see mainly Indigenous peoples on the streets,” STC Tribal Chief Mark Arcand said in a statement on Thursday.
“This is evidence of the lasting effects of residential schools and systemic racism leading to intergenerational trauma, addictions, and mental health issues.
“We need a long-term strategy, an investment to keep people safe and healthy. STC will step up and do as much as we can to help take care of our people. We are in a crisis mode. It’s time to do the right thing. We want this initiative to be Indigenous-led for Indigenous people.”
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The City of Saskatoon is offering a 9,200-square-foot space at 145 1st Ave. N.
On Dec. 7, the standing policy committee for planning, development and community services will consider a lease agreement option that would allow the STC to operate the shelter for $10 over five months.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) will offer services including mental health and addictions by referral, home care services and COVID-19 supports for routine testing and immunization as needed.
“Having access to an additional 50 shelter beds, supporting a wellness model will not only help get people get out of the cold, but will potentially link them to other appropriate health and social services to better support their needs,” SHA primary health director Cristina Ugolini said in a press release.
“This can also help to reduce some of the pressures our emergency departments (EDs) struggle with on a daily basis as many use the ED as shelter in times of challenge.”
Officials said the shelter will be staffed 24/7 and offer mental health and addictions services.
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The Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) has a security and operations plan for the area around the shelter with uniformed and alternative response officers providing regular patrols.
“In light of the increasing volume of calls regarding people in crisis and experiencing homelessness, the (SPS) is pleased to see this joint effort by the (STC) and the City of Saskatoon,” SPS superintendent Cam McBride said in a statement.
“We are supportive of any plan to offer an alternative to those who may not have had safe shelter otherwise.”
STC said the concept was developed as a safe alternative to homeless encampments that have been present in the community and efforts will go toward helping those facing homelessness to obtain long-term and secure housing options.
The shelter will open as soon as possible following potential lease approval by city council on Dec. 20, according to STC.
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