The Saskatoon Tribal Council has found a permanent location for their homeless shelter in Saskatoon.

For the past year, the STC has operated a temporary shelter downtown.  On Friday morning they announced a new permanent location on the city’s west side thanks to a $5 million investment from the province.

The permanent facility will be located on 415 Fairmont Drive on the city’s west side.  The building was formerly a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall.

The building was purchased by the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation for $5 million and will be leased to the STC.  The Tribal Council will be responsible for ongoing maintenance and day to day operations while the housing corporation will be responsible for any capital investments.

The hope is for the facility to be opened by November 15 once permits and inspections are cleared.

(A photo of the purchased building posted to the Saskatoon Tribal Council Facebook page.)

Arcand says homeless shelters are needed across the city

When speaking with reporters about the new location on Friday morning Tribal Chief Mark Arcand says the space is great and offers room for expansion adding that the homelessness problem in the city needs to be addressed.

“There’s people that don’t have homes, cost of food is going up, cost of rent is going up and people are moving from communities coming to the city that can’t get a house. They have nowhere to go,” said Arcand.  “This is serious stuff in our city and people have to start recognizing that this is a community issue.”

The tribal chief didn’t shy away from addressing people who may have concerns with a homeless shelter in their neighbourhood.

“We should have one of these (facilities) in every ward in the city of Saskatoon because it treats everybody fair,” he said.  “I’m not going apologize to the people in that neighborhood because there’s nothing to apologize for… the only thing that I’m going to say is they need to help us, this whole entire city needs to help us combat homelessness.”

STC to take on beds left by the Lighthouse

With this new facility, the Saskatoon Tribal Council will be taking over the remaining emergency shelter spaces from the Lighthouse Supported Living shelter.

In June, the province announced they cut funding from the Lighthouse leaving 61 beds for homeless people in the city unavailable.  The funding cuts came following reports of financial mismanagement from Lighthouse leadership.

30 of the 61 beds were given to the Salvation Army earlier this month and the tribal council will now take on the remaining 31 beds.

This will bring the total number of beds to be cared for by the STC to 106 with the 75 beds from the temporary shelter to be transitioned when possible.

The lease on the permanent facility is only scheduled to run until March 31st, 2023, but Arcand is confident it will be renewed.

“My plan is to have it in 5-year blocks,” said Arcand.  “But we have to be respectful of governments who need to get funding approved, so I am fine with year-to-year leases.”

State of temporary shelter and plans for more shelters

When the STC opened their temporary emergency shelter last year they chose to take a holistic approach choosing to refer to their clients as “relatives”, refering to their building as a wellness centre, and also giving people a place to stay during the day.  The approach has been praised and Arcand says they will carry that same approach to any facility they operate.

Also keeping on his comments of a homeless shelter in every ward, Arcand says the STC is still looking at opening an additional wellness centre on 20th Street.  However, he says someone would need to step in with a capital investment for this location to happen.

When asked about the possibility of the private sector stepping in, Arcand says STC has been having difficulty acquiring charitable status, which has not helped them acquire private donors for their wellness centres.

In the meantime, Arcand says they have applied for funding to keep the temporary homeless shelter open as a cold weather facility as the lease for that facility runs until March 31st as well.  However, he says they are still waiting for the funding to be approved.

(TOP PHOTO: STC Tribal Chief Mark Arcand speaks with reporters at the STC office in Saskatoon.  Photo by Joel Willick.)