The homeless in Saskatoon have one less safe place to go during the day.
The stabilization unit at the Lighthouse Supported Living shelter is now only accepting people from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. It used to be open 24 hours, but a lack of government funding forced the unit to cancel its daytime programs.
“This particular shelter is aimed at individuals who are the most chronically homeless and who often have been kicked out of every other waiting room and 24-hour coffee shop. So there’s not a lot of places for them to go,” DeeAnn Mercier, communications director with the Lighthouse, said.
People need to pay to stay at many shelters throughout Saskatchewan, including the Lighthouse, Mercier said. And if they can’t, they have to get government funding.
But since November, she said social services has been rejecting about 50 per cent of the people who apply because they don’t fit the right criteria.
“We need to have our overnight shelters operating, we know that that’s a matter of life and death. During the daytime hours though is when we’re able to connect with them and really make that life change.”
Now, Mercier said it will be difficult to connect people with addictions counselling and housing services. Paramedics and nurses also work during the day at the unit, which accepts people who have been using drugs or alcohol, and can help those who are sick.
“We’ve been caught in a very tough place trying to help people who need it but then also not being supported to do so.”
Mercier said although further funding cuts are a concern, she’s hopeful that positive government talks will translate into policy changes.
In the meantime, the Lighthouse is having its Coldest Night of the Year fundraising walk on Saturday, Feb. 20. The walk starts at Station 20 West and ends at the Lighthouse, with all proceeds going towards both the shelter and The Bridge on 20th.