The City of Saskatoon has extended the Saskatoon Tribal Council’s lease to continue to operate a downtown emergency shelter.

A vote Monday by council, comes as the lease was set to expire April 30. The STC was seeking an extension to April 2023.

The shelter, which opened December 15, has filled approximately 8400 beds, according to Saskatoon Tribal Chief Mark Arcand. As the lease was granted, Arcand said the STC was searching for a permanent location.

Brent Brazeau, a homeless person who uses the downtown shelter center explained that the staff there are saving lives. “To that end, they save lives, literally and figuratively,” stated Brazeau to Council. “Homeless people have nowhere to go. Where would you like us to go?”

Council examined the issue for approximately four hours Monday evening. Prior to the vote, a representative of downtown condos, told Council there are concerns with extending the lease, as the wellness center was only to be temporary, explaining crime was gone up in the area.

“Many of us do not feel safe walking streets even during the daylight hours,” Geri Fernet said. “Just look at the 100 block on Second Avenue. One block over from the temporary shelter. Seven empty storefronts to businesses with broken windows, empty uninviting and unsafe as the feel and the reality of downtown. We already had an abundance of troubles and homeless people before this temporary shelter was approved by you.”

Saskatoon Police Chief Troy Cooper expressed concern with the shelter closing as it could create pop-up tent cities or other negative consequences.

Council could only vote to extend the lease to June 15, as a bylaw amendment is needed to allow the wellness center to operate into next April. There is a willingness to explore this as the City will engage the community on the shelter.

(Tribal Chief Marc Arcand outside the temporary shelter.)