Lighthouse members call for board to resign after causing ‘danger’ at Saskatoon facility

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Lighthouse members call for board to resign after causing ‘danger’ at Saskatoon facility
WATCH: The divide is deepening between some supporters of The Lighthouse and the shelter's board members and now a majority of the organization's membership has called for the entire board's resignation – Mar 4, 2022

Membership of the Lighthouse Supported Living in Saskatoon, which serves people experiencing homelessness, says the facility’s board should resign after creating an unsafe and toxic environment.

Members — comprised of donors, volunteers and other supporters — issued a news release Thursday, alleging the board of directors has acted “unethically, immorally, and unprofessionally,” resulting in a loss of member confidence.

“The Board of Directors have not upheld their responsibility to be accountable, transparent and have not provided the membership with information regarding recent actions,” reads the news release.

Executive director Don Windels was placed on leave on Jan. 18 and was replaced by board chair and president Jerome Hepfner, along with vice-president Twila Reddekopp. A reason hasn’t been provided for the change at the facility.

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Board member Pierre Trudel resigned on Jan. 16, according to the facility’s website, while Lisa McCallum, Adeel Salman and Ian Hamilton are still listed as members.

Five managers were fired without cause on Feb. 1, in letters signed by Hepfner and Reddekopp. The removals followed a public request for mediation.

“We know how crucial each one of those people are at the organization. They are cogs in the whole machine,” said Sandra Lazar, a spokesperson for the Lighthouse membership.

However, in an email to Global News, Hepfner said Lighthouse membership has been kept aware of “ongoing proceedings” involving Lighthouse management and operations.

“Further, the membership has been made aware that the leadership is working with the Lighthouse main funding and operational partners to ensure the continuity of its services,” he said.

The Lighthouse has also seen a “drastic decrease of police calls,” Hepfner said, resulting from trauma-informed security practices. Dialogue continues with civic and provincial agencies, he said.

“The board will continue to perform its duties diligently and act in the best interest of the organization and the people it serves,” said Hepfner.

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But with the managers fired, said Lazar, a long-time Lighthouse volunteer, members are concerned that addictions support and other social services aren’t being delivered for residents. Instead, she said the facility functions strictly as a place to shelter people.

Staff now operate in an environment where many feel the need to take stress leave or resign, according to Lazar.

“People that did the crucial work, actually helping people that need their services, are gone and so that’s where the danger comes in,” she said.

Nearly 60 per cent of the roughly 45-person membership voted in favour of calling for the board’s resignation, according to Lazar.

Traditionally, the Lighthouse’s membership votes in the board of directors, while the board decides who serves as the executive director. The executive director oversees staff, Lazar explained.

It’s been 15 months since the last annual general meeting for the Lighthouse, according to Lazar.

The staffing changes came as the Lighthouse nears the end of a months-long saga to remedy property maintenance and fire code violations. All but three of the 42 Fire Safety Act contraventions have been corrected, according to the Saskatoon Fire Department.

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Most property maintenance issues have been resolved, the department said in a statement.

Click to play video: 'Lighthouse head on leave, board members assume leadership of struggling shelter'
Lighthouse head on leave, board members assume leadership of struggling shelter

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