Sask government casts doubt on future of Saskatoon's Lighthouse
Only 5 people transitioned to stable housing last year, say officials
The government of Saskatchewan says the Lighthouse's 38-bed emergency stabilization unit in Saskatoon is not producing results.
Officials said only five people who sought refuge at the Lighthouse last year were able to transition to stable housing.
Citing the provincial auditor's report last December, officials in a news release today said a recent review showed "many individuals were receiving shelter services through multiple avenues."
Right now, individuals are asked to pay $30 per night to stay at The Lighthouse.
Emergency shelter coverage reduced
However, Lighthouse staff noted last year almost half the people who come seeking shelter were denied any coverage by the province.
Most often, that's because the province has already paid the person's rent elsewhere.
Last year, the province said it spent $1.15 million on the Lighthouse, to support 61 shelter beds per night. Officials said the Lighthouse's billing procedures have been restructured, to avoid double-dipping.
Nowhere else to go
People who work with the homeless say the people who end up in emergency stabilization beds aren't necessarily following any policies set by government.
"They've ended up at the stabilization shelter for a reason," said Shaun Dyck, executive director of the Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership. "Maybe they can't remember their address because they're too intoxicated. Or there might be a risk of violence if they go home."
"Regardless of the reason, they need somewhere that's safe to sleep," Dyck said.
The Lighthouse has typically absorbed the cost of shelter beds for those who cannot pay largely through donations and other sources of income.
Police say emergency shelter beds save lives
Saskatoon police Chief Clive Weighill said there are up to 25 per cent fewer people being booked into police detention cells since the Lighthouse expanded its emergency beds.
We firmly believe people with addictions should not be placed in a cell block.- Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill
He praised the partnership between Saskatoon's health region and the Lighthouse to offer the emergency stabilization shelter beds.
"It was only three years ago we had three deaths in cells in a year and a half period," said Weighill. "A lot of this was attributable to people that are being arrested, we don't know what they've ingested, they go into detention and they don't wake up."
Weighill said he hopes to get more clarity soon on the government's funding intentions for the Lighthouse.
"We firmly believe people with addictions should not be placed in a cell block," said Weighill. "It's imperative that people with addictions don't get housed in our cells."
In a news release, the province noted it will continue to support people who do not have an alternate source of shelter, or shelter funding. The Ministry of Social Services said it's under contract to provide $762,000 in base funding to the Lighthouse, and that will not change.
The Saskatoon Health Region said it's paying $623,250 this year to ensure there are nurses, mental health counsellors, and other supports for addicts seeking shelter at The Lighthouse, a move aimed at reducing emergency room visits.
The Ministry of Social Services said it pays for 470 emergency shelter spaces across the province, through the Lighthouse, the Salvation Army, the YWCA, and other partners.