Tag Archives: The StarPhoenix

Closure of daytime Lighthouse programs ‘big setback for the city:’ Weighill

More from Andrea Hill, Saskatoon StarPhoenix

IMG_0904 A funding shortfall has forced Saskatoon’s Lighthouse Supported Living shelter to cancel its daytime program.

People who are homeless, intoxicated or otherwise need a safe place to stay can now only access the centre from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Lighthouse communications director DeeAnn Mercier said “it’s scary to contemplate” what the city’s most vulnerable people will do during the day, especially in current temperatures, and she fears the number of downtown disturbances will rise if people who need to sleep off a rough night have nowhere to go.

Mercier said funding challenges started in November, when the provincial social services ministry, one of the organization’s biggest backers, gave notice it will apply stricter qualifications in deciding who is eligible for funding.

Under its contract with the Lighthouse, the ministry gives the organization an emergency shelter per diem for people who use the shelter. Mercier said the organization was told in November that funding will only be available for people who meet the government’s definition of “homeless.”

IMG_0903However, there’s many reasons why people — even those with fixed addresses — seek shelter at the Lighthouse, she noted.

“It may be that their ex-partner is there, it may be that there’s 20 people there, it may be that they’re not allowed to stay there when they’re intoxicated, it may be that they don’t feel safe there. That, to us, fits the Lighthouse’s definition of homelessness,” Mercier said.

The provincial government’s direction was that people who, for example, are collecting pension cheques or have a source of income are expected to pay to stay at the Lighthouse, Mercier said.

That never happens, because most people showing up at the Lighthouse can’t afford anything, Mercier said. Instead of turning people away, the organization has housed and fed them, albeit with less funding. Mercier estimates that between 40 and 50 per cent of people arriving at the centre are now coming with no funding.

The practice has left the centre in a “very concerning” financial situation, forcing managers to make decisions about cuts. First on the chopping block was 24-hour programming, which started at the centre’s stabilization unit almost a year ago.

“This is a big setback for the city,” said police Chief Clive Weighill. “The Lighthouse is predominantly the main place for people to go who need assistance, and without this open during the daytime, it’s going to leave a big gap of service here in the city.”

A spokesperson for the social services ministry said the province is in the process of providing an additional $150,000 to the Lighthouse within its current contract to help it provide emergency shelter while the health, social services and corrections ministries examine a longer-term, sustainable funding model for its operations.

Mercier said the money will help deal with the shortfall from 2015 but is not enough to keep the centre open 24 hours.

“We’re really hesitant to continue daytime operations if we don’t have sustainable funding for it,” she said.

In an emailed statement, social services spokesman Andrew Dinsmore said eligibility for emergency shelter per diems is based on assessing people’s income and assets from all sources, and their needs.

If a person’s resources are insufficient to meet their daily living needs for basic items such as food, clothing, or shelter, they may be eligible,” he said.

His statement did not indicate how the criteria for an emergency shelter per diem changed in November.

Oskapios Give Back

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 9.14.08 AMMore than 30 homeless people in Saskatoon have warm new winter coats, thanks to a small group of young aboriginal people.

“I felt really good. I knew these people, I work with these people every day, and to see the looks on their faces and their gratitude, it was an awesome, awesome feeling,” said Dawn Mentuck, a stabilization unit support worker at The Lighthouse, Saskatoon’s downtown shelter.

This is the third year the group has set out to help people in need over the holidays, Mentuck said. They include Matreaca Munro, Myrna Durocher, Tricia Gardypie, Julia Mudrey, Lanny McDonald and Rylan Smallchild.

Mentuck often sees people in extreme need come through the Lighthouse doors.

“Some of them don’t have any kind of income — they’re not on social services, they don’t have an address where they can stay, so there’s a lot of people that use the shelter and detox and use the outreach van, and these were the kind of people we were aiming for.”

While the city has programs to help, such as free meals at the Friendship Inn, homeless people have trouble finding places to pick out clothing they need, she said.

The group raised $1,638 at a steak night earlier this month, which bought 26 men’s coats, 11 women’s coats, and a gift card for a woman with three children whose house had burned down.

They gave away most of the coats on Sunday, with a few left in the outreach van to hand out.

“The reaction was so awesome. Most of the time they would give us big hugs and smiles and big thank-yous — just awesome expressions of gratitude,” Mentuck said.

The group dreams of opening another shelter in Saskatoon based on First Nations culture, offering access to elders, drumming, singing and ceremonies, she said.


Via: http://thestarphoenix.com/news/local-news/fn-volunteers

Top 5 tips on helping Panhandlers in Saskatoon

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 12.45.01 PM

How should people handle panhandling in Saskatoon? The issue has come to the forefront in the media in the past couple of weeks, with many people weighing in. A 2011 article in the Atlantic stated:

I’m certain that there are some cases where donations to an especially needy beggar are justified. But the ultimate danger in panhandling is that we don’t give to every beggar. There’s not enough change in our purses. We choose to donate money based on the level of perceived need. Beggars known this, so there is an incentive on their part to exaggerate their need, by either lying about their circumstances or letting their appearance visibly deteriorate rather than seek help.

If we drop change in a beggar’s hand without donating to a charity, we’re acting to relieve our guilt rather than underlying crisis of poverty. The same calculus applies to the beggar who relies on panhandling for a booze hit. In short, both sides fail each other by being lured into fleeting sense of relief rather than a lasting solution to the structural problem of homelessness.

Here are a few suggestions for a response the next time a panhandler asks you for money:

1. Acknowledge and Engage

  • Smile and actually say hello. Go out of your way to approach rather than avoid panhandlers.
  • Engage the person by starting a conversation. Take time to listen.

2. Don’t give money

  • Ask what their greatest need is. In most cases, meeting the immediate need of food or clothing is best.
  • Offer an alternative. Socks, underwear, toiletry items including toothbrushes and toothpaste, bottled water, granola bars or gift certificates for food can help address immediate needs.

3. Invite BhcmBegCcAAxpIX

  • If you want to help a panhandler or homeless person get back on their feet, you can point them to the Lighthouse or other service agency aimed at lifting people out of poverty. Since 1997 we have provided long-term housing for those who have experienced homelessness in Saskatoon.
  • If they are in immediate distress you can call the Lighthouse Mobile Outreach at 306-653-0538. They can transport them to a safe space.

4. Donate 

  • Many organizations are working together to end homelessness in Saskatoon including the Lighthouse, the Friendship Inn, the Bridge, Salvation Army, and the Saskatoon Indian and Metis Friendship Centre and many more. These organizations are able to increase their levels of support and programming through your donations of money and goods. To donate to the Lighthouse click here.

5. Volunteer

  • If you volunteer, not only do you give back to the community and help those in need but by sharing your experience you can help eliminate misconceptions and stereotypes. Gather a group of friends and start a clothing or non-perishable food drive, host a fundraising event, or volunteer at the Lighthouse Cameco Community Kitchen or other local organizations.

In Orlando, Florida, the Central Florida Regional Commission took another approach to panhandling. They asked people who where panhandling what the people who passed them everyday might not know about them. The end result was a video that is truly eye-opening.

If you have a story of helping a panhandler in a non-traditional way, please let us know in the comments!

Lighthouse opens new soup kitchen


Fresh, free food for the city’s needy is now on the menu at a downtown shelter.

The Lighthouse has opened a new soup kitchen at its downtown headquarters. The shelter will now provide free meals to the public twice a week.

For people like Harry McLeod, the new community kitchen is welcome.

“It’s important for families who are struggling for food and shelter,” McLeod told reporters Monday at the kitchen’s grand opening.

McLeod spent years on the street and now lives at The Lighthouse. While the new kitchen is aimed at helping people who don’t already live at the assisted living facility, he said he looks forward to frequenting the new kitchen.

Aside from cooking free suppers twice a week, the newly renovated kitchen will also provide cooking classes for people who want learn to cook healthy meals on their own.

The Lighthouse’s DeeAnn Mercier said the new kitchen will be a valuable resource for people who struggle to make ends meet.

“When rents go up, a lot of people take money out of their food budget in order to pay their bills, so money becomes very tight. There is just not enough to go around,” Mercier said.deeann

Other popular soup kitchens in Saskatoon, like the one at the Friendship Inn on 20th Street, don’t serve supper, Mercier noted. That means people on the street still go hungry at night.

The shelter expects as many as 60 people to frequent the free meal service in the first few months. After the holidays, demand will like increase, Mercier predicted.

The kitchen will be fully staffed by volunteers and its shelves will be stocked with donated food. Mercier said she hopes the kitchen will bring in new people to The Lighthouse.

“They will come in, get to know us and we can talk to them, maybe before they lose their house,” she said.

Cameco provided the funding to renovate the kitchen and plans to help staff it with volunteers.

“The Wrong Person Died”

David Ristow was lying next to his partner when she was shot and killed. He survived the bullet but the mental scars remain

First he bought the booze. It was a bottle of Bacardi white rum. After downing it, he went to a Dollar Store and bought a cheap box cutter.

Then, on a fall day more than a year ago, David Ristow settled himself down in an alley on Second Avenue between some garbage cans.

“I sat there, I cut my neck open,” Ristow said.

“I had had enough. I didn’t want to deal with things anymore. I just wanted to die. I just wanted to get it over with.”

This was not the first time Ristow tried to take his own life. Ever since his common-law wife Susan Reinhardt was shot and killed by her ex-husband while he laid next to her in bed, Ristow’s life had been on a downward spiral. Sitting in that alley, bleeding from his neck, he thought only of Reinhardt. He was scheduled to testify at the trial for her murder that week.

“I kept thinking if there was an afterlife then I will be with her, I will join her,” Ristow said.

Ristow was sleeping next to Reinhardt in their Fourth Avenue North apartment on July 15, 2006 when George Allgood fired a 12-gauge shotgun through an open patio door. Ristow woke up and felt a “big hunk of skin” on his side. The bed was wet from blood. Ristow said he didn’t know what happened. Eventually, it was a city homicide

detective who broke the news that Reinhardt had been murdered.

From that moment on and for the better part of a decade his life fell apart, he says. He drank, he collected government cheques, and did little else.

“I had nothing all of sudden. I didn’t know what to do. I’m not really sure what I did for a couple of years. I can’t even remember, but it wasn’t much,” Ristow said. That’s when he found his way to The Lighthouse. Dennis Bueckert remembers first seeing Ristow when he walked into a weekly recovery meeting hosted at the shelter.

“At that time I knew nothing about him,” Bueckert said.

“I was floored when I first heard about this because I didn’t realize what this guy had been through.”

Ristow is no stranger to the criminal justice system. He left school when he was 17 and, according to court records, was convicted of armed robbery a year later. In 1997 he assaulted his common-law wife. In the intervening years, he had convictions for impaired driving. For much of his adult life, his run-ins with police didn’t stop.

He said he was slowly piecing his life back together when he met Reinhardt at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. As is custom, he gave Reinhardt his phone number and offered her support in her recovery. A month later she phoned him in the middle of the night. A week after that, they were living together in Reinhardt’s house.

The couple began holding weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in their living room. It was a popular meeting, Ristow said, partly because the city’s smoking ban didn’t apply.

“It was the only meeting in the whole city where you could smoke … drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes is a joy,” Ristow laughed.

It took Ristow seven years to find his way to The Lighthouse after Reinhardt’s murder. Part homeless shelter, part affordable living complex, the Lighthouse offered Ristow shelter from the street and valuable work experience.

Even once he was offered a spot in the shelter’s work training program, he still struggled with alcohol.

And when George Allgood’s murder trial began, painful memories resurfaced for Ristow. That was the last time he tried to kill himself.

“The wrong person died. She was the better person. He should have killed me

and she should be the person still alive,” Ristow said.

Ristow has been sober for two months now. He is on medication for depression. He spends most of his days sorting laundry and donated clothes. The shelter pays him $150 a month for his work, money that supplements his social assistance cheques.

He says he wants people to know about life inside the Lighthouse, to let people know that the people living alongside him are real people – not just homeless strangers asking for change. In the last year, he says, he has developed a special affinity for the homeless people who are taken to the social detox centre at the Lighthouse, people who are often too intoxicated to go anywhere else.

“I’m pretty popular with most of the guys, because I’m like that. You need clean socks? Come talk to me, I’ll get you some clean socks,” Ristow said.

When he isn’t working he spends time in a small room watching cable news. It’s hard, he says, not to think about Reinhardt.

“It comes on strong every once in a while and I have myself a good cry,” he said.

Allgood’s lawyers are appealing his first-degree murder conviction. Allgood was only arrested after he confessed to the shooting, to an undercover police officer at the end of a four-month operation that included police faking an execution-style shooting in Yukon.

After Allgood’s conviction in January, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the police technique, known as the ‘Mr. Big’ sting tactic, was unreliable. That ruling will be central to the appeal.

Bueckert, who continues to work closely with Ristow, says he still has a ways to go.

Eventually, he would like to see Ristow get his own home and a steady job.

“What I would like to see is David in his own house somewhere. Settled and stable and then coming back and telling us how it’s going. That’s my dream,” Bueckert said.

Ristow is hopeful for the same things himself. While he continues to struggle with alcohol, he hopes one day he will be sober enough to get a job working at the Lighthouse, helping others.

“I’d really like to get a job here,” he said.