A public information session was held by city Coun. Darren Hill on Sunday to discuss the new emergency shelter being placed in one of Saskatoon’s residential neighbourhoods.
Residents lined the walls of a school gym to voice their concerns surrounding the 30-bed emergency shelter planned for the former fire station in the Sutherland area of Saskatoon, run by the Mustard Seed.
Victoria Tremblay runs a private daycare on 108th Street in Sutherland, blocks from the shelter location, and said she knows she won’t feel safe bringing the kids outside once the shelter is operational.
The city said in January that a temporary shelter can be expected in the spring at 421 Central Ave. for up to 18 months.
“I’m concerned with the addictions,” Tremblay said. “With the paraphernalia that goes along with it, the robberies that go along with it to pay for that paraphernalia to pay for those drugs.”
The shelter in Sutherland isn’t going to provide support to individuals with complex needs — the task being undertaken by a complex needs emergency shelter planned for Idylwyld Drive.
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Longtime Sutherland resident Chantelle Morrison said notes should be taken from the Emergency Wellness Centre in the Fairhaven neighbourhood that opened in 2022.
“In Fairhaven, the people that run it have done their very best and stepped up to help the homeless population and a growing population … but this is a very short-sighted solution to place this in a residential area just a few feet from an elementary school.”
Fairhaven residents have held public protests and fought against city council since the shelter’s implementation, saying crime has spiked in the neighbourhood.
“I think we are just setting ourselves up for failure and I’m just not sure there is any solution that is going to come of it,” Morrison said.
She said the city needs to hold the provincial government responsible.
“Ask for something more,” Morrison said. “Ask for something that is going to make a difference, connect people to care and put them in the right space that can do that.”
Two city meetings, one virtual and one in person, will be held in the coming months to discuss the shelter, according to Hill. One of the meetings was originally scheduled for Feb. 28 but was cancelled.
“This has just been mishandled right from day one,” Hill said.
Residents expressed frustration that many of the city meetings about the shelter were done off camera and not open to the public but Hill said he can’t breach confidentiality by disclosing the meeting content without being subject to a Code of Conduct charge.
“It’s wrong,” Hill said. “It’s absolutely wrong. These should be held in public — they are of significant concern to the entire community.”
He said that before the meetings, he will spend his time lobbying fellow council members to speak against the location.
The city has a bylaw in place for the location of licensed adult services, requiring businesses to be located 160 metres from schools, playgrounds, residential areas and recreational facilities. Hill said the same bylaw should be mandated for shelters.
“That also ensures that they can be positioned in areas where there is good, safe transit, well-lit streets and that has worked.”
He also recommended the empty lot beside the city police station as a suitable location.
“The shelter beds are desperately needed. They are just not needed in this location.”
— with files from Global News’ Brody Langager
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