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New Saskatoon partnership formed to address downtown safety and homelessness

For immediate release: September 17, 2020 - 1:00pm
CY20-1572

The Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) will lead a new pilot project and Task Force to help support people who are homeless and improve safety in downtown Saskatoon. The pilot will be called Sawêyihtotân (suh-WAY-EE’-tote-tahn) which means let us bless each other through our show of respect for each other.

STC will lead the new community outreach team, which will be based in Saskatoon’s White Buffalo Youth Lodge. The team will include members from STC, the City/Saskatoon Police Service and the organizations that are part of the Saskatoon Inter-Agency Response to Safety and Well-Being group. Two staff members from the Ministry of Social Services and one staff member from the Saskatoon Housing Authority will join the team, with support from the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

The City of Saskatoon is providing $100,000 in funding towards this initiative, while the Ministry of Social Services and Ministry of Justice are providing another $50,000 each, bringing the total funding to $200,000.00. Including staff resources, Social Services will be providing over $117,000.00 in funding towards this important work to increase community safety and well-being in Saskatoon.   

“I am confident that this collaboration will add to the services we have in place to support those in need and help to better serve people in the downtown area who have no supports and nowhere to go,” Social Services Minister Paul Merriman said. “I also believe this community-driven initiative can inform a longer-term approach to serving people in need in Saskatoon and am very proud to support it.”

“We are committed to providing people with the supports they need to live safe and healthy lives,” said Minister of Justice and Attorney General Don Morgan. “Saskatoon Tribal Council has a strong track record of providing important supports in the Saskatoon community, and Government is proud to partner with them as part of our mutual goal of creating healthy communities.”

“This initiative complements the great work already underway to improve community safety and gives us an opportunity to develop a model that encompasses holistic, culturally relevant ways to meet the needs of the population,” said Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to build on the lessons we learned and the relationships we created from our recent collaboration responding to COVID-19 and the closure of the City Centre Inn - to provide better outcomes for those on the streets and contribute to the safety of all Saskatoon people.”

“The Sawêyihtotân initiative is a turning point in responding to the on-going health and safety of people on the streets and downtown,” said Mayor Charlie Clark.  “This is the first step.  The Wahkohtowin (wuh-COH’-toe-win) Task Force is the important second phase of this work to develop new models for shelter services and supportive housing over the months ahead. 

“It has taken a lot of commitment and working together in new ways, by many partners, to address the gaps that have existed for too long.  The fact that we have Minister Merriman and the participation of the Provincial Government directly in the development of solutions is crucial to these efforts, and I thank them for their participation.  This is also a turning point in moving the words of Reconciliation into action. The leadership of the Saskatoon Tribal Council brings an Indigenous-based approach to help us all learn how to build more holistic approaches in meeting the needs of people who are hurting. This feels like a historic moment for our community.”

The Downtown Safety Response Plan is split into two phases – a comprehensive community-based case management strategy, and a long-term transitional supportive housing model.

The immediate priority of this initiative will see the street outreach team begin its work this fall, starting with people in the most urgent need in downtown Saskatoon. The team will work with individuals to develop case plans, establish supports and help them secure and maintain stable housing. 

The initial phase, which will carry through over the next several months, will provide valuable feedback into a longer-term plan for serving Saskatoon’s homeless population and others in need of housing and supports.

The second phase will be supported by the work performed in Phase One. It will explore a collaborative approach than perhaps a traditional model of a single agency providing supports for vulnerable community members.