Lighthouse cut draws criticism from Saskatoon mayoral candidates, homeless

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Lighthouse cut draws criticism from Saskatoon mayoral candidates, homeless
WATCH ABOVE: There's a plea for help from Saskatoon's homeless. It comes a day after the province announced it will no longer fund the Lighthouse's temporary shelter for people under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Ryan Kessler reports – Sep 29, 2016

As mayoral candidate Don Atchison prepared to make a campaign announcement Thursday on creating a “vibrant city centre,” he was interrupted by a person decrying the state of homelessness in the city.

He was a member of a small group that gathered across the street from the media scrum. Behind Atchison’s interview, another person held up signs seeking a place to sleep for the night.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan government cuts funding to Lighthouse stabilization unit

In particular, they were protesting the recent cut to the stabilization unit for intoxicated people at the Lighthouse in Saskatoon, according to Bartley Weber, who is homeless.

“Everybody has different needs. Some people, they need their own space,” Weber said.

The Saskatchewan government conducted a review of the funding for the stabilization unit and concluded that it doesn’t serve enough eligible clients to cover its operation costs.

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When asked if he would lobby for Lighthouse funding from the province, Atchison answered “yes.”

“We’ll be at the doorstep of the ministers asking them to reconsider what they’re doing at this time. Actually we did that already [Wednesday],” Atchison said.

The Ministry of Social Services funds the Lighthouse with a minimum $726,000 annually in addition to per diems for eligible clients.

Candidate Charlie Clark called on the province to reverse the cut and foster a better overall system of care. If elected mayor, he said he would bring back the Safe Streets Commission, which he said would help the city’s homelessness problem.

“By reducing the capacity of the stabilization unit, we’re just going to push people onto already taxed emergency services,” Clark said.

READ MORE: NDP leader accuses Sask. Party of ‘mean-spirited’ cut to shelter

Only five people transitioned from the unit into stable housing, according to provincial officials.

Kelley Moore accused the previous civic administration of allowing the province to “walk away from the table.” She called Clark and Atchison’s approaches “reactionary.”

She also wants to clarify what the outcomes of the unit are supposed to be.

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“I think what’s really important is that we have emergency assessment, receiving, stabilization and transition. Ultimately, the goal is to get people into homes,” Moore said.

The Saskatoon Health Region will continue provide more than $620,000 in funding for this year.

Saskatoon’s fourth mayoral candidate, Devon Hein, didn’t return a phone call from Global News requesting an interview.

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