Saskatoon homelessness organizations stepping up amid Lighthouse closure

Organizations that help the vulnerable population in Saskatoon are banding together amid the COVID-19 outbreak at the Lighthouse.

'Our goal is to have no one sleeping outside,' says Rita Field of Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service

Rita Field said the community has been preparing for this very scenario since the pandemic began. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

Organizations that help the vulnerable population in Saskatoon are banding together amid the COVID-19 outbreak at the Lighthouse.

An outbreak was declared at the downtown shelter last weekend after a staff member and client tested positive for COVID-19. On Tuesday, the Lighthouse temporarily close its doors to new clients.

Other organizations are stepping up to help those in need of shelter.

"To some extent, we were preparing ourselves for all of us to work in the emergency continuum, should a partner have to limit their service over a period of time," said Rita Field, executive director of the Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service.

"We're fortunate to have the cold weather strategy that we agreed to way back in 2012, where we will all work together on the front lines to make sure that we've done our part to to assess what's going on for the individual or family, and to make the appropriate referral and then to follow through."

Without Saskatoon's largest shelter, organizations are deferring to the provincial Ministry of Social Services, which helps line-up the proper accommodations for people who need a place to stay, Field said.

The Salvation Army runs a men's shelter and can help families as well, but the ministry is likely relying heavily on hotels, she said.

"I feel that we are in a space of really good intentions," said Field. "As we refer, we follow up to see if if there has been a good solution and that the sleeping options match the need. 

"Our goal is to have no one sleeping outside or in unsafe situations."

The Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service has received up to 25 per cent more calls than normal, Field said. Most are somehow related to COVID-19, including mental health crises, job loss or domestic violence.

The Lighthouse will re-evaluate the situation on Nov. 8, it said in a news release on Oct. 27. For now, no new clients are being accepted to the emergency shelter or The Lighthouse Stabilization Unit until further notice.

Current clients and residents staying at The Lighthouse are able to remain and people cleared from the self-isolation hotel site can continue accessing Lighthouse shelter services, the release said.

The Lighthouse Clothing Donation Program is also temporarily suspended, but monetary donations are still welcome, it said.

Some restrictions are in place at the Lighthouse to combat an outbreak of COVID-19. We hear how it's keeping its clients safe while keeping its doors open. Host Leisha Grebinski speaks with Don Windels, the executive director of the Lighthouse. 10:46

CBC Saskatchewan wants to tell more stories about how the pandemic is touching the province's most vulnerable and marginalized populations. How has COVID-19 affected you? Share your story with our online questionnaire.

With files from Saskatoon Morning