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Praire Harm Reduction to offer overnight shelter for Saskatoon’s most vulnerable

Click to play video: 'Praire Harm Reduction to offer overnight shelter for Saskatoon’s most vulnerable'
Praire Harm Reduction to offer overnight shelter for Saskatoon’s most vulnerable
Starting on Dec. 14, Prairie Harm Reduction will become the first place in the city to provide a come-and-go, indoor warm-up centre during the late hours – Dec 8, 2022

With extreme cold warnings in full effect for Saskatoon, Prairie Harm Reduction will be opening its doors to the public 24 hours a day, offering an indoor space to warm up.

Click to play video: 'Prairie Harm Reduction in Saskatoon to offer overnight shelter'
Prairie Harm Reduction in Saskatoon to offer overnight shelter

Starting on Dec. 14, Prairie Harm Reduction will become the first place in the city to provide a come-and-go, indoor warm-up centre during the late hours.

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Last week, the organization received approximately $240, 000 in funding through a partnership with the Saskatchewan Housing Initiative and is currently in the midst of hiring staff to accommodate the new hours.

“This is such a huge need in our community,” said Kayla DeMong, executive director at Prairie Harm Reduction. “We are really honoured and happy that we are able to support the community in this way.”

The Saskatoon Fire Department has confirmed through mapping that 52 of 65 Saskatoon neighbourhoods have unhoused people living in them.

The last study done by Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) in April 2022 showed 550 people were living without a roof over their heads.

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However, that number is likely nowhere near the actual amount according to SHIP Communications Director Brenna Sych.

“There’s just not enough supports overall to be able to support people the homeless population and to support the vulnerable people,” said Sych.

DeMong said that it was hard on staff to turn away those in need at their 10 p.m. closing time.

“Having to lock those doors and close down, trying to make sure everyone had warm clothes when they were leaving and mitts and shoes and all of those things and then knowing that they were going out there with no options was extremely difficult.”

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Click to play video: 'Church in the Hood providing warm bus for homeless overnight'
Church in the Hood providing warm bus for homeless overnight

Saskatoon Fire Department Chief Morgan Hackl said the city is working on a more extensive cold weather strategy that operates during the late hours.

“The warm-up locations for after-hours are still being finalized,” said Hackl.

DeMong said those using the drop-in facility will be able to enjoy a cup of coffee and food, some TV, and talk with support workers.

“Operating 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. we’re serving just over 600 cups of coffee a day, so we anticipate it’s going to be a busy situation overnight and on the weekends.”

DeMong expects the volume of people in the warm-up centre to reach around 80 per night.

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Although some of the recent funding will be allocated to providing food for visitors, DeMong said that much of their food comes from volunteers.

“We have a group of ladies that make soup and freeze it and fill our freezer with it and so we will continue to build those relationships.”

Prairie Harm Reduction also partners with Saskatoon’s Friendship Inn and the Saskatoon Learning Centre for extra resource donations.

“It’s a whole community approach to support those that need it most and all in our community deserve to be supported,” said Hackl.

The funding is intended to keep the new hours though until March 31, 2023.

– with files from Global News’ Montana Getty

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