Amid concerns over the central location of a temporary shelter, Tribal Chief Mark Arcand said the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) is using the only space available.
The facility at 145 1st Avenue North was at least equal to its capacity of 50 people for each of the two nights it was operated, according to Arcand.
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âI think we’ve gained ground, but if there’s another organization that wants to give us a better location, here we are,â he said. âPick up the phone and call me. “
The Tribal Council reviewed four different locations in Saskatoon, and no one let STC set up a temporary shelter until the City of Saskatoon offered to rent the space on 1st Avenue Nord until April 2022, according to Arcand.
Warehouses and churches could not accommodate the shelter during what Arcand called an âemergencyâ situation. He said it wasn’t about choosing downtown over other spaces, but rather the only option on the table.
âI don’t want it (in) downtown Saskatoon because I don’t want people to have access to negativity,â Arcand said.
âI want to offer services. It is a place of well-being.
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The building has passed health and fire inspections, according to the tribal chief, and services are increasing.
Arcand said securing funding is not a priority at this time – the shelter has enough money to operate for four to six weeks. He said the Department of Social Services had offered to provide per diems to users of the shelters, but Arcand wants operations to be “stabilized” first.
He noted that one person suffered a drug overdose on Thursday, was resuscitated with naloxone, treated in hospital and returned to the shelter.
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âWe saved someone’s life yesterday inside our shelter who could have overdosed outside in the cold,â Arcand said
This is the kind of concern raised by some business owners in the area.
Brent Penner, executive director of the Business Improvement District representing the downtown core, told Global News he is happy STC is involved in the fight against homelessness, but the services need to be delivered in a thoughtful manner.
âThe failure in our eyes is that none of this is part of a bigger plan – and instead he was treated when it was already cold outside,â Penner said in an e- mail.
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Penner, who ran for the Saskatchewan Party in a by-election in 2017, sent a letter to Premier Scott Moe on Wednesday, highlighting “the concerns of various people across the community.”
âDowntown Saskatoon has been under immense pressure from the DubÃ© Lighthouse for years,â he said.
âThere have been many meetings where these struggles are recognized, but nothing changes. “
Penner called on all levels of government to find a location to offer homelessness services outside of the downtown or Riversdale neighborhood. He also said a “lack of action” on shelters and social service delivery has hurt people who need help, but also those who live, work and visit downtown.
âPremier Moe, it’s time to do things differently. Now is the time to act, âPenner wrote.
“It’s time to recognize that too many unintended negative consequences flow from the way things are done today.”
Global News requested an interview with the Prime Minister, but instead received a statement from Louise Michaud, assistant deputy minister of disability programs and housing at the Ministry of Social Services.
âThe Government of Saskatchewan continues to work with our community partners and looks forward to working with communities to address these issues in our province,â she said.
The statement did not address Penner’s specific concerns about approaches to homelessness being centralized in downtown Saskatoon.
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