STR8 UP’s years-long desire for transitional housing was answered this week thanks in part to a flood of donations in mere hours.
The grassroots organization recently received a grant from the Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership. It meant that with four apartments provided by Stewart Properties, STR8 UP finally had a place for people transitioning out of gang life.
The housing is temporary, allowing former inmates to work with support staff to find work, access social assistance and look for permanent homes. Residency can range from a few weeks to a few months.
Four days before move-ins were set to begin, outreach worker Emily Carr posted online about the group’s “urgent need” for supplies like housewares and furniture.
“I thought I might get some of the stuff. I thought I might be up all night, trying to gather sheets,” Carr said in an interview.
The response on Tuesday, according to Carr, was incredible.
“Within five hours, we had everything that we needed,” she said.
Chantalle Morrow-Fesciuc saw the post and responded in a matter of seconds. As community coordinator for Integrated Community Ministries, she arranged to fill housing’s fridges. CHEP Good Food provided healthy groceries.
“It says that this core community is keeping an eye one each other. They want to make sure that their neighbours are taken care of,” Morrow-Fesciuc said.
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The fridges would be full, but STR8 UP still needed furnishings to make the units inhabitable.
Saskatoon’s Lutheran Theological Seminary had furniture to share, as it recently closed residence space at the University of Saskatchewan.
Seminary president Rev. Bill Harrison said it’s a way to show love for people in need.
“Our sense is that people really need to be supported when they’re trying to make a fresh start,” Harrison said.
He credited Saskatoon as a “really supportive community,” where awareness is growing about the need to work together to help transform lives.
STR8 UP executive director Russ Misskey told Global News the outpouring of kindness is timely, as the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an influx of people receiving early release from correctional centres.
He said three times as many people are exiting the system and needing support.
Most of the non-profit’s release clients enter shelters or shared accommodations, Misskey said. He estimated up to 70 per cent of people released without proper resources and stable housing end up back in custody within a year.
“Just having a safe place where they can be at night without having to worry about things can make a world of difference for them,” Misskey said.
“People who are in desperate situations are often preyed upon.”
Move-ins are scheduled to begin Saturday.
STR8 UP has enough funding for six months of transitional housing, but Misskey’s hope is that the program proves to be successful enough for an extension.