The lighthouse emergency shelter will close this week

The Saskatoon Tribal Council said it would try to “take over” and open a second shelter. No details are available on a transition plan for Lighthouse services.

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Dozens of emergency shelter beds are set to close in Saskatoon as Lighthouse Supported Living Inc. prepares to downsize its emergency shelter unit.

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CTV News reported earlier that the approximately 60-bed unit is expected to close at the end of this week. Lighthouse co-CEO Jerome Hepfner confirmed in an email to the StarPhoenix that this was the result of a decision by the provincial government to withdraw funding from the nonprofit.

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The lighthouse has for years operated services for the vulnerable from a high-rise tower at 304 Second Ave. S. These have included a living center with longer term support and an emergency shelter. In total, the building houses more than 200 people each night between different programs, according to the Lighthouse website.

The province’s decision to cancel its support came after a turbulent time for the nonprofit.

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Earlier this year, city fire inspectors identified some 40 fire code violations in the Lighthouse building. Then the board members kicked out executive director Don Windels, causing a public dispute between the board and Lighthouse members.

The public later learned that Windels’ withdrawal came after an investigation revealed he had benefited from personal loans obtained from the lighthouse.

The problems prompted Social Services Minister Gene Makowsky to announce in a June 30 radio talk show that the department planned to cancel its funding. A ministry spokesperson later confirmed that the decision resulted from issues with “governance, management and financial controls” at the lighthouse.

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Makowsky had previously pledged to find new locations for ministry-funded services at the Lighthouse. As of early Monday afternoon, no details were available on a transition plan for any of those services.

Since late last year, the Saskatoon Tribal Council has operated 75 emergency shelter beds at a wellness center it manages in a city-owned building on First Avenue North. This program recently received a funding commitment of $3.5 million from the province.

Tribal leader Mark Arcand said he hopes to have an announcement in the coming weeks on the opening of a second accommodation, adding that his organization will do everything in its power to “take over” left by the loss of the lighthouse beds as more people struggle to make ends meet.

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“That number is growing rapidly,” Arcand said. “Right now people are choosing between paying electricity, paying rent or buying food for their children.”

Arcand has previously said STC wants this planned second location in a residential area outside of the city center and hopes to use it for healthier people who are about to be able to move into permanent housing. In the longer term, STC is still looking for a permanent replacement for the current temporary location on First Avenue, which is expected to be in a building near 20th Street and L Avenue South.

Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said it was essential the province replace the lighthouse’s displaced programs. He called on nonprofits and the government to work together on a “continuum of care” to get people out of emergency shelters and into stable housing.

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“It’s not up to the city of Saskatoon to deliver these programs, but it’s very important that we have these programs in place,” he said.

  1. The provincial government has announced its intention to withdraw its programs from Lighthouse Supported Living Inc. in favor of finding other partners to provide services to homeless people in Saskatoon.

    Province to withdraw services from Saskatoon lighthouse

  2. A Saskatoon court ordered an independent investigation after concerns were raised about Lighthouse Supported Living Inc.'s board of directors approving personal loans for its executive director, Don Windels, his family and other board members of directors since 2008.

    Tank: Change Accelerates for Saskatoon’s Downtown Lighthouse Shelter

  3. Ward 5 County.  Randy Donauer shakes hands with Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand after the city council voted Wednesday to approve a request to extend the STC's lease at its downtown wellness center site at 145 First North Ave.  STC can now operate the 75-bed facility in the city-owned building until April 30, 2023. (Saskatoon StarPhoenix/Michelle Berg)

    Saskatoon City Council Grants Extension for Downtown Wellness Center

  4. Saskatchewan Minister of Social Services Lori Carr, Assistant Deputy Minister of Disability Programs and Housing Louise Michaud and Tribal Chief Mark Arcand (left to right) sign an agreement document during a conference of press to announce a partnership between the Saskatoon Tribal Council and the provincial government to pilot a wellness center in Saskatoon.

    Province commits funds for Saskatoon Tribal Council shelter

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