The Saskatoon Tribal Council is putting a hard line on people with complex needs at their emergency Wellness Centre.
This means as of October 1, people actively using drugs or presenting other similar complex needs will no longer be welcome.
“We have seen an increase of constant negative use, which is addiction,” said Tribal Chief Mark Arcand at a press conference in Saskatoon Tuesday afternoon. “people are using steadily at our facility.”
Arcand spoke on the wellness centre’s goal to help transition people out of homelessness and he says the facility does not have the funding, tools, or resources to adequately serve people with complex needs like drug addiction.
“We still want to give people a chance, but they also have to make a conscience effort as a user to actually change their life,” he said. “If they don’t want to do it they won’t be staying at our facility, it’s very simple. I know it is a tough line and some people may agree and some people may disagree, but we are making that decision for what’s better for people’s quality of life and we are going to focus on wellness.”
Arcand also says 68 families have come through the facility since they opened and he says drug use has created a safety concern for these families.
As for the people with complex needs, who will soon be turned away, Arcand says they will be relocated by STC’s Sawēyihtotān program or if the need arises Saskatoon Police will be asked to assist.
“This is about safety and wellness for all,” Arcand said.
Arcand then called on the city, province, and any other interested stakeholder to invest in a facility to support people with complex needs. Once again, Arcand hammered home that there needs to be more than one of these types of facilities in the city.
“They need to be funded properly and staffed properly to serve whatever neighborhood they end up in.”
The tribal chief says the province, city, Saskatoon Police Service, and Saskatoon Fire Department were all made aware of the policy change in advance.
Police Superintendent Darren Pringle attended the press conference at the STC head office where he says the police service is expecting an increase in calls due to the change at the Emergency Wellness Centre.
“There are facilities with beds for those with complex needs but we need more,” Pringle said. “We expect our case load to increase during this time.”
The STC opened the Emergency Wellness Centre in March 2023 and are funded by the provincial government for 106 beds per night.
(PHOTO – Saskatoon Tribal Council Tribal Chief Mark Arcand. Photo by Joel Willick)