Tag Archives: Housing First

One man’s road from homelessness to housing


One man's road from homelessness to housing

James Upper in his lodgings at the Lighthouse on Tuesday.

Photograph by: Greg Pender, The Starphoenix , The Starphoenix

Two weeks ago, James Upper hit rock bottom.

Suddenly evicted by his landlord, he was homeless for the first time in his adult life. He spent nights huddled on park benches, trying to sleep. He was abusing sleeping pills and drinking heavily.

“It’s like your whole world goes black. You can’t plan ahead. It’s like you can’t see anything,” the 60-year-old said.

Upper never thought he would end up on the streets. Moving to Saskatoon two years ago, he had a steady job at a local aviation company. He says he hadn’t had problems with alcohol or drugs since his early 20s.

The downward spiral began when was kicked out of his home after a disagreement with his landlord. Soon after, he underwent heart surgery that involved eight bypasses. He was unable to work. With no job and no place to sleep, he turned to drinking and prescription drugs.

“It was something to turn to when you can’t cope with reality. You create your own reality with the drinking,” he said.

He spent a night in the police detention cells and at the mental health centre at Royal University Hospital. But even with the supports there, he ended up back on the street.

He said the drugs and the drinking only exacerbated his mental health issues.

When he was at his worst, he showed up at the doors of The Lighthouse and was admitted to its brand new stabilization shelter. The shelter offers a safe place for men and women who are drunk or high, but don’t need to be incarcerated, taken to emergency services or watched by a health official at the health region’s Brief and Social Detox Unit. While the Lighthouse had a shelter before, it would not admit people who were under the influence.

Upper, who was in the throes of intoxication but wanted to sober up, was the perfect candidate.

“They ask questions, but they don’t turn you away. They ask questions out of concern. There is no prejudice or criticism,” he said.

8896631After spending a few nights in the shelter and accessing the addictions counselling and services provided by the staff there, Upper was offered an opportunity he’d thought he would never get again: a place to live.

Last weekend, he moved into a new affordable apartment at the Lighthouse.

“I can’t describe the look on his face,” said Holly Lucas, the Lighthouse housing coordinator.

“The words I got to him were ‘Welcome home.’ At that point we all burst into tears.”

Lucas said Upper is the first person to successfully transition from the stabilization unit into the affordable apartments the Lighthouse provides. His place looks like any other bachelor-style apartment. There’s a tidy kitchen, clothes in a closet and a couch where he can watch TV.

Upper says his stay at the shelter and his new home have given him a new perspective on life and the people he used to just pass by on the street.

“You see those people out on the street? I was one of them. I have an empathy I didn’t have before,” he said. “You can get trapped in a cycle if you don’t find a way out of it. This was my way out of it.”

Upper is continuing with counselling through the Lighthouse and hopes to return to work as soon as his doctor says it’s okay. Even though he is slowly getting his life back together, he doesn’t plan to leave his new home anytime soon.

“It’s like heaven. It’s perfect,” he said.


© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix


The Lighthouse Up Capital Campaign Video

Check out our Up Capital Campaign video!

Screen shot 2013-06-09 at 3.25.38 PM

Thank you to Dale for sharing his story. We are so grateful for his help in the kitchen, he truly ‘pays-it-forward’ everyday at the Lighthouse.



If you would like to donate go to:


Heads Up Fundraising Event this Wednesday!



This Wednesday the Lighthouse is hosting a Heads Up Fundraising Event with C95, Magic 98.3, and the Bull 92.9 live on location. Tune in to hear stories of transformation, recovery, and hope from those we serve. Call and make a donation to help expand our services and renovate our supported living suites.

If you are in Saskatoon, come down for a tour to see for yourself why the Lighthouse is an important part of your community. We will be serving coffee and treats, and a chili meal over the lunch hour. Give a donation in person and join with us as we continue building people Up!

At capacity

For the first time since we opened our men’s emergency shelter and women’s emergency shelter, the Lighthouse was at capacity this last weekend.  With 25 women in the women’s shelter and 16 men in the men’s shelter (plus another 12 men in overflow) we saw our highest numbers ever.

When we get this full, everyone wants to ask if this is a sign that homelessness has gotten worse in the city or if it is a random spike.  It’s too early to tell.  We have had increases before where the numbers returned to normal but as we learned in 2008, the increase can often be permanent.

To help cope, The Lighthouse is purchasing new cots to increase our temporary capacity.  If needed, we will configure shelter arrangements to add more permanent beds.

With the new affordable living apartments opening on September 1st, twelve supported living suites opened up which will open up capacity for both our shelters as people move to permanent housing.

‘Housing first’ key to helping homeless

From Dave Hutton at The Star Phoenix

There is a growing movement to house the chronically homeless in Saskatoon, but more capacity is needed, a city report says.

The report on creating a plan to end homelessness within a decade, similar to one adopted by Calgary, lays out the City of Saskatoon’s role in housing and the growing movement toward the “housing first” model.

Housing first, or “rapid rehousing,” is a relatively new approach to housing that aims to find people a permanent residence – rather than providing people a succession of shelter and tran-sitional housing – before addressing other issues such as mental health, addictions or employment. Proponents say it saves taxpayers money compared to the jumble of social services, shelter and emergency responder resources used to help the homeless.

Saskatoon has an estimated 260 homeless men and women, 290 people living in shelters and 500 in transitional housing, according to a 2011 report.

In Saskatoon, the Central Urban Metis Federation Inc., Egadz and Lighthouse Supported Living operate forms of the housing first programs, the report says.

“While these and other supportive housing programs are successful, the existence of homeless people in our community is proof enough that further capacity, and perhaps a co-ordinated response, is needed to serve the growing need,” the report says.

A housing first strategy has been identified “overwhelmingly” as a solution to Saskatoon’s homeless population, the city report says. A number of monthly meetings have been organized by a recently struck housing first task force that brings together agencies from across the city. A pilot project is under consideration, council heard.

The City of Saskatoon won’t take an active role in designing a plan to end homelessness because such a task falls outside its mandate, the report says. The city will play a leadership role through the recently struck safe streets commission and by continuing to provide incentives to increase the supply of rental housing, the report says.

Randy Grauer, community services manager, says the city’s job is in trying to create neighbourhoods with a diversity of housing, including more affordable and entry-level housing.

The city’s mandate isn’t to be a housing provider, which falls to social services, he says.

City programs are on track to spur the development of 2,800 rental housing units by 2015, Grauer told council.

“Our job is to create an environment where across the city we facilitate all variety and forms of housing and price points of housing and supportive forms of housing,” Grauer says.

“We create both a regulatory and a culture of diversity in the entire housing spectrum. That’s our role, and that’s what we’re actively pursuing. If we have an abundance of rental accommodation, that goes a long way to help a social agency that’s supporting the housing first program.”

Coun. Charlie Clark says there is momentum thanks to a November summit that brought in Tim Richter of the Calgary Homeless Foundation.

“I think we’re at a really critical time in the community,” Clark says. “The evidence is that when you do (housing first), you save society a great deal of money.”

Council has created the safe streets commission, a group that has a mandate to “ensure that people are not on the street because they have nowhere else to go.” The group will act as a “high level advocate” for more housing programs that operate on the housing first mode, the report says.

On Monday, city council appointed a number of high-profile people to the safe streets commission, including developer Ken Achs and former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice MacKinnon.

The commission will try to ensure people who live on the streets have alternatives available, MacKinnon says.

“I think it’s important to get at the underlying causes of the problem rather than the superficial symptoms,” MacKinnon says.

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix