Saskatoon Tribal Council hosts open homes for Fairhaven residents forward of wellness centre opening

The Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) is hosting its second day of open house information sessions Thursday for residents in the Fairhaven community, as they plan to operate their new emergency wellness centre at a former church building.

In late October, the STC announced it is partnering with the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation (SHC) to bring a new emergency wellness centre to 415 Fairmont Dr.

The new location will hold 106 beds; 75 will be moved from the old centre, plus the 31 beds from the Lighthouse that was shut down.

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When the announcement was first made last month, many took to social media to condemn the decision.

Over a hundred people gathered Wednesday for the council’s first open house session.

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The room became so filled that many had to stand along the walls with extra chairs brought in to house the attendees.

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Chief Mark Arcand gave the crowd with a two-and-a-half-hour presentation and open discussion to show Fairhaven residents how they plan to operate its new location by describing their action plan and safety measures, and the goals of the wellness centre.

“So people have a good understanding of the organization and then leading to what we do at the current location of 145-1st Ave. North and how we provide services there,” Arcand explained to the media after the presentation.

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“How we included paramedics to be part of changing the system. Mental health workers. Things that don’t normally happen at other shelters.”

Many residents seemed supportive of Arcand’s goals by cheering and clapping to his remarks to support the city’s homeless population.

“I’ve seen a lot of stuff going on Facebook about how people are fearing for their children’s safety and really a lot of like … I’m going to say it … more selfish views of why we shouldn’t house our houseless,” Beverly Fullerton, a Parkridge resident, explained to Global News.

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“If you live a privileged life and you don’t understand what causes addictions, mental health issues and houselessness, you’re not going to understand the whole big story.”

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Others came to see what they can do to help.

“I work with the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre so I wanted to come here and get an idea of how we could partner and maybe support each other,” Justine Nabess said.

Some expressed concerns about community safety and potential vandalism. At one point, one woman referred to wellness centre staff as “you people,” which then turned into a conversation about addressing racism and otherism.

Global News asked some of those residents for an interview, which they declined.

Arcand said overall attendees raised some good questions and interesting points. It’s a community issue that he said he is willing to work with community members to address.

“If we work together, and try to combat some of those problems, we can come up with a good solution,” he said.

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The new facility will be replacing its old location on 1st Avenue.

However, the council has said the building will still be used as a warming centre when the cold weather strategy is implemented.

STC plans to operate the new emergency centre starting Nov. 23, with a phased transition approach to bring in 25 people from the 1st Ave. location.

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