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Saskatoon emergency shelter using all its funding and more

“We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. Because it’s human.”

SASKATOON — Saskatoon tribal council chief Mark Arcand expects the emergency wellness center’s financial operations to run a deficit as they have been helping more people than their limited funds will support.

Arcand said they are grateful that many in the community have stepped up since moving the center from downtown to Fairmont Drive and opening in December 2021 because it has been busy, especially with extreme weather conditions.

“We have a situation over here. The safety of our loved ones – it doesn’t matter who they are, where they come from, what race they are [and] How old are they – people are in need,” said Arcand, who has worked with various partners to set up the centre.

The STC leases the facility from Saskatchewan Housing Corp., which acquired the former church property for $5 million.

The facility can accommodate 106 people, at least 40 more than at its previous downtown location. The new location has been “crowded” since it opened last December, and Arcand said they only turn people away if they follow the rules in place.

“Since our opening, we have been working at full capacity with 106 people. I explained that we have an overflow, same as in the lobby. We have 20 to 40 people a night who can’t sleep in a regular bed because we’re full,” Arcand said.

“We’re only getting 106 beds funded, but we’re taking down the tables in the foyer and putting up cots so they can sleep from 11am to say 7am. We put the beds away and put the tables back so people can have breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

Security checks are conducted when relatives enter the facility to prevent alcohol, drugs, other prohibited substances, or weapons in the dormitories.

Arcand was the face and spokesman for the spa and has drawn criticism from some people in the Fairhaven community who fear the spa will cause problems in their neighborhoods.

He has received calls and texts from some of these people and even sent photos of shopping carts parked near their homes and people at bus stops in Fairhaven.

“How come they’re in a bus shelter? That is the question. People point back at the spa and say, “What are you doing to those people at the bus stop?” How come they don’t call the police? You shouldn’t stay in one [bus] Shelter,’ Arcand said.

“We help people out of our numbers, but people don’t think about it. Do they remember that person is at the bus stop instead of saying what these guys are doing? Do you fund us for that extra 40 people per night? The answer is no.”

And not turning people away, staying warm and eating a hot meal is one reason Arcand said he expects a deficit. However, he is grateful for funding provided by the state government and donations from private companies and other individuals.

The donations were either in cash or in kind, such as winter and other clothing, toiletries, toys for the children to stay with their families, and even hot meals provided by the likes of small business owner Ally Hrbachek of Ally’s Creative Bakeshop became.

“We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. Because it’s human. We’re going to be in deficit because we’re helping more people than we’re being funded. We have to go to government funding because we show results and results. The state finances everything. she [the government] do everything to support us. I think at the end of the day all levels of government [need to] Step up because [homelessness] is a community issue,” said Arcand, whose council raised $50,000 at a gala earlier this month, with funds going to the center.

“We manage our deficit. We have 106 people alive or staying [at the centre], and we are only funded to feed the 106 people. If someone else comes in to join us, I will not sit there and eat while that person does not get anything to eat. We will feed them. That’s the human side of what’s going on at the center. So if that means we’re going into deficit, we’re going to use those numbers to justify why we’re doing that.”

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