Saskatoon city council offers $100K to pilot program addressing downtown social issues

Saskatoon City Council is offering partial funding for a pilot project to help address downtown safety and to help people access social services.

City council voted unanimously to put $100,000 towards the program to help people struggling with homelessness, addictions and financial troubles.

Read more: Letters call for downtown safety in Saskatoon to be improved, shelter says more services needed

The program has several agencies coming together to offer social services with a hub at White Buffalo Youth Lodge.

The program is named Sawēyihotān, which Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) said is the Cree word for working together.

STC is the program’s lead partner as it is a ‘for Indigenous, by Indigenous’ model.

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The plan is bringing together the Ministry of Social Services, the health authority and other organizations like housing agencies, the food bank and Prairie Harm Reduction.

1:34 Business improvement district calls for additional safety measures downtown

Business improvement district calls for additional safety measures downtown

The mayor said lessons have been learned by service providers on how to better serve those in need.

“It’s a wider failure of the wider system and we can learn from the experiences of every partner of what has happened so far to build a better way forward from here,” Charlie Clark told Global News.

During a special council meeting on Sept. 16, Chief Mark Arcand said the program grew out of the collaboration in relocating people after the City Centre Inn was closed in July.

Read more: Over 150 people evacuated after Saskatoon motel shut down due to unsafe, unsanitary conditions

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He added the intention is to make sure people can access multiple services under one roof.

“Everybody is coming together to make sure that we’re all supporting a service that is needed in this city,” Arcand said.

The program has two phases.

The first addresses the immediate response to those in need living downtown while the second intends to find long-term housing and maintain social, spiritual and cultural supports.

Read more: ‘More work to do’ now that most City Centre Inn evacuees re-homed, community agencies say

The city’s $100,000 comes from Municipal Economic Enhancement Program (MEEP) and has been reallocated.

The provincial government will match that figure.

STC said the funding will go towards setting up administration and ensuring an outreach team and project coordinator are in place.

Sawēyihotān is anticipated to run from early October to March 2021.

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