The building The Lighthouse calls home had its start as The Empire Hotel which was built in 1905 and was the first of the grand historic hotels in Saskatoon. While Saskatoon was known as a boomtown in 1910, when The Empire Hotel was built, it was quite a risk. The risk paid off and in 1913 a major addition was made to the hotel with a new wing and 1200 seat theatre were added.
During the 1960s the hotel name was changed to The Executive Motor Inn and the brick exterior was clad in the now familiar marble and tile finish. In the 1970s the hotel changed hands again and was renamed The Capri Motor Hotel. An interesting local note is that the Empire Hotel was the first home of CKOM radio when it launched in Saskatoon back in 1950.
In 1992 The Lighthouse was incorporated as a registered charity and was originally called the Voyageur Club. In 1997 local businessman Pius Pfieffer donated the building to the Voyageur Club which was initially was going to run Capri Place as a hostel and housing for low income senior citizens. Over time the vision for the organization changed and its focus shifted to providing supported housing services for those at risk in Saskatoon. In 2007, the non-profit’s name was changed to The Lighthouse Supported Living Inc.
In response to a severe housing shortage in 2008, The Lighthouse opened a 17 bed emergency shelter for women and in 2009 opened up a 20 bed mat program for men. Both initiatives went a long way in ensuring that no one would be on the streets in Saskatoon.
Lighthouse Community Housing Begins
With housing in short supply, a local family offered the use of their house to kick start our community housing program. From there, The Lighthouse community housing program was developed and grew.
In 2011, the Province of Saskatchewan through the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation announced it would build an additional 58 affordable housing suites with a contribution of $12.92 million. The City of Saskatoon contributed $925,000. The Lighthouse’s contribution was a total of $3.2 million in both land and mortgage. These apartments fell under our Housing Plus philosophy at the time which meant that there would be additional supports to those who require them to live independently. September 1, 2012 was move in day and the grand opening took place later that month.
The women’s shelter was created in an adjoining bingo hall and was funded by the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy’s grant of $585,000. The City of Saskatoon has also contributed $160,000 for renovations.
In 2011, the Saskatoon Health Region committed $170,000 to The Lighthouse for the renovation and upgrade of nine complex needs rooms. The rooms were stripped back to the studs where new flooring, walls, bathrooms, lighting, heating, and windows were installed. Eight of the rooms are available for complex needs housing where most of the residents have concurrent disorders and have not been able to secure housing in the past. The floor is staffed by a counsellor and two support staff.
The need for a safe place for individuals who were experiencing homelessness and were under the influence of drugs or alcohol was highlighted in the Saskatoon’s Plan to End Homelessness initiative and through advocating of staff and clients for street entrenched individuals suffering from addictions. Through support from the Homelessness Partnering Strategy in July 2013, the Lighthouse opened their 20-bed Stabilization Unit from 4pm to 8am each night to provide a supervised, secure place to sleep for those under the influence.
In 2013, the Lighthouse launched the Up! Capital Campaign to raise funds to renovate the former hotel building along with the water slide space within the hotel. Through the support of the community the Lighthouse was able to reach its goal of $4 million dollars in the spring of 2014, thanks to a lead gift of $1,000,000 from Leslie and Irene Dubé .
In honour of their gift the Lighthouse renamed the supported living tower (formally the Capri Hotel) The Dubé Lighthouse. A successful Radiothon, and many private donations from the community lead up to a one time capital gift from the Saskatchewan government of $1.5 million to complete the campaign. The Lighthouse is extremely grateful to the volunteers, donors, and the Government of Saskatchewan for their support.
The theme of 2014 and 2015 at the Lighthouse was renovations and construction as we worked to renovate the remaining 58 supported living suites in the Dubé Lighthouse Tower and construct three floors within the former water slide and pool room area of the facility to house an expanded Stabilization Unit, and counselling offices.
Today, The Lighthouse cares for people in 58 affordable apartment units, 68 supported living apartment units, and 106 shelter beds (a mix of men’s and women’s emergency shelter beds, and stabilization beds) on our campus, as well as 12 community homes with a mix of independent and supported living.