The provincial government is providing funding to the Saskatoon Tribal Council to keep its emergency wellness center open for at least another year.
The STC opened the shelter on December 15 to help some of the city’s homeless population find shelter during the cold winter months.
Since then, the Tribal Council has been negotiating a permanent solution moving forward.
The province stepped up Thursday with an announcement of $3.5 million to keep the temporary center open until at least April 30, 2023.
“It’s been a while to come,” Social Services Minister Lori Carr said at a Whitecap Dakota First Nation funding announcement event. “This is an Indigenous-led program for Indigenous people and Tribal Chief Arcand has really shown he can do it, so when he presented the proposal to us, it was pretty hard to say no.
At the end of the pilot project, the government and tribal council will meet again and determine whether funding will continue in the future.
STC says they showed their work
STC leader Mark Arcand believes the centre’s holistic approach to homelessness has helped the investment make sense for the province.
“It’s not just about shelter, it’s about long-term durability that everyone deserves,” Arcand said.
The tribal leader also says the funding is one of the biggest one-year investments he has seen by the government to address homelessness.
“We’re not going to let them down,” he said. “But we cannot do this alone. If people think we’ll do it in a day, they’re wrong. It is a process and we need to work together as a community.
The final hurdle remaining for the temporary shelter will be convincing the city of Saskatoon to change some bylaws, but Arcand is confident that will happen.
STC is still looking for a permanent solution
The tribal council is still looking for a permanent solution for the wellness center, but Arcand says he doesn’t want to “swindle” his clients. He says any permanent facility would need showers, a commercial kitchen and proper living spaces.
“Every person deserves this,” he said. “These are the minimum requirements to make sure we can make a positive change for everyone.”
STC had previously listed a building on 20th Street as a possible location for a future permanent shelter, but Arcand says the process for STC to acquire that space may still be a long way off.
However, Arcand has made it clear that he wants STC to be the sole provider of homeless shelters in the city.
“I want to take over the shelter business for our people, for all people,” Arcand said. “We are doing it right, the province appreciates and supports this, and we want to take over the shelter sector in the city of Saskatoon.”
Over the past several months, Lighthouse Supported Living in the city has experienced instability with high turnover rates among staff and leadership positions.
Meanwhile, the province also announced $1.2 million in funding for Indigenous-led homelessness projects in Regina.
(PHOTO: Members of the provincial government and STC leaders pose with a funding agreement to keep the temporary STC wellness center open for another year. Photo by Joel Willick.)