The NDP are raising questions about whether a 22-year-old woman, who was found dead in Saskatoon on New Year’s Day, tried to seek refuge at a shelter or hospital before her death.
The woman’s body was found in the 1500 block of 20 Street W. shortly after 10:30 a.m. CT.
On Thursday, NDP MLA Nicole Rancourt claimed the woman’s death was an example of another person impacted by funding cuts at Saskatoon’s Lighthouse.
In September, the Saskatchewan government cut funding to the Lighthouse’s stabilization unit, which has been open since 2013. The unit provides a safe place for homeless people struggling with addictions. It’s meant to reduce the number of people detained in police cells and hospitals.
The 38-bed unit used to be open 24 hours a day but has now had its hours cut to 16.
However, the Saskatchewan Party said the social service ministry’s cold weather strategy was active on Dec. 31 and the ministry has confirmed there were shelter beds available in Saskatoon that night.
A government spokesperson also said if there had been no beds, anyone in need who had asked for emergency shelter would have been accommodated, even if it required a short-term hotel stay. They said the cold weather strategy means anyone in need has access to a safe and warm place to sleep.
In a statement, the Saskatoon Health Region also said there was no record of anyone forced to leave St. Paul’s Hospital – which is located on 20 Street W. – that night.
The health region said it is providing police with surveillance footage from that evening.
Saskatoon police have deemed the woman’s death to be accidental based on autopsy results, evidence from the scene and interviews.
The investigation has been turned over to the office of the chief coroner. Toxicology results are pending.
The woman’s name has not been released.