Letters call for downtown safety in Saskatoon to be improved, shelter says more services needed

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WATCH: Two letters were submitted to city council detailing ongoing issues some business owners say are growing safety issues in downtown Saskatoon.

More concerns are being raised over what some business owners say are growing safety issues in downtown Saskatoon.

Two letters were discussed by city council on Monday, detailing ongoing issues some businesses owners say they’re facing.

The letters don’t say those experiencing homelessness are the only problem, but points to this population, and services that support them, as a big factor.

READ MORE: ‘Something out of a horror movie’: group chased with hatchet in downtown Saskatoon

Ken Achs, president and CEO of the Mid-West Develop, a property management group in the city, sent one of the letters.

In it, he points to several “major issues” impacting downtown: the bus mall on 23rd Street, which he says was meant to be moved 15 years ago; the locations of the Lighthouse Assisted Living and Saskatchewan Social Services, and a perception that downtown is unsafe.

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“(It’s) not just by feeling, but by the reality of the presence of people who approach downtown patrons in unsafe ways from verbal attacks to stabbings of innocent random people,” he wrote.

“If the four issues I have mentioned are not dealt with … the future of downtown Saskatoon does not look good. Cities die from the core out.”

He said of his four buildings, about half of his tenants have said they’re concerned, and some are considering moving their businesses out of the downtown core.

Another letter paints a picture of tension between the less fortunate and the general public.

The main issue — people don’t feel safe downtown, according to the letters.

The Lighthouse was named as an issue in one letter. Staff there argue social problems were in the downtown before their inception, and they’re a response to a system that’s failing some.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Saskatoon Lighthouse shelter calling for provincial help during pandemic

“We are here taking care of very vulnerable people, they come to our door because they’re in great need. To move the lighthouse would not solve that,” said fundraising and communications manager Anna Pacik.

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The Lighthouse currently provides housing and a health clinic among other supports and services.

Pacik says more mental health and addictions services, and supportive housing, will help fix the issue downtown’s social issues.

City councillor Darren hill agrees — but says it needs to be spread out

“It was the concentration of the services and programs in that one location that was my concern,” he said during a virtual council meeting Monday.

“Those particular components of the lighthouse should be relocated, not the entire lighthouse facility.”

READ MORE: Saskatoon’s homeless being housed in hotel, but only until they test negative for coronavirus

But moving just some of the lighthouse’s services could get costly.

“All of the services count on each other, we cross-train staff, we share services within the building,” explained Pacik.

She said separating services would take “significant resources” but it’s an option it is looking into.

The city has sent the letters to committees that work with businesses and to social service providers to find a solution.