A commitment from the provincial government means a major facelift for the Lighthouse Supported Living facility in downtown Saskatoon.
Health minister Dustin Duncan was on hand to announce $1.5 million in funding from the Government of Saskatchewan.
“It’s just a very worthwhile program and organization that’s been serving the people of Saskatoon for many years,” Duncan said.
The money caps a $4 million fundraising blitz started by the Lighthouse 11 months ago. A portion will go towards renovations to the facility, which provides housing to about 70 people in what was formerly the Capri Hotel.
The Lighthouse’s DeeAnne Mercier said the renovation will bring the building “into this century.”
“We’re going to be taking out the carpeting, re-doing the drywall, re-doing the plumbing, re-doing the bathroom fixtures. Making accessible doorways for people. Just those little things that are so important when you want to provide a safe home for people,” Mercier said.
Another piece of the project will see the construction of a 38-bed stabilisation unit. The new unit will provide temporary emergency shelter to people who may be too intoxicated to be housed elsewhere.
Tracy Muggli is director of mental health and addictions services for the Saskatoon Health Region. She said the new unit will help reduce costly emergency room visits when the region’s eight bed Brief Detox Unit (BDU) fills up.
“We know that we can provide shelter services for far less. And, it’s a far more appropriate placement for people that are struggling,” she said.
For the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS), the issue of where to house intoxicated people is particularly important.
The service was rocked by three deaths in its holding cells back in 2010, and has been pushing to get out of the business of being the city’s housing of last resort ever since.
“We did have three in-custody deaths within a short period of time. And nobody wants to see that, whether it be in cells, whether it be in a park, or in your own home,” said Inspector Larry Vols, who heads up the SPS Headquarters Division.
Vols said the new unit will be another step in relieving pressure on the holding cells.
“People that need housing, that need other assistance, don’t need to be in our cells. We’re happy to see that there’s money being put aside for them,” he said.