‘It’s a priority’: STC Chief Arcand calls for offsite complex needs facility in Saskatoon

Click to play video: 'STC Chief Arcand calls for offsite complex needs facility'
STC Chief Arcand calls for offsite complex needs facility
WATCH: The Saskatoon Tribal Council is weighing in on the city's homelessness situation, calling on more supports from the provincial government. Gates Guarin has more on what the council is advocating for and what more needs to be done to address the issue. – Aug 23, 2023

A new shelter facility in Saskatoon would be one of the most successful solutions for people with complex needs, Saskatoon Tribal Chief Mark Arcand said at a Wellness Centre event on Wednesday.

“We have to change up the format,” Arcand said. “We need a facility for complex needs. It’s a priority. Offsite, it needs to be somewhere different.”

Arcand spoke Wednesday at the Emergency Wellness Centre during a BBQ hosted by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority for the residents currently calling the shelter home.

“Our community is coming for a tough file in our city that needs to be addressed really, really quick because winter is coming,” Arcand said.

Click to play video: 'Police commissioners’ letter to province states ‘urgent need’ for help'
Police commissioners’ letter to province states ‘urgent need’ for help

He noted that the Wellness Centre has been at full capacity since the day the shelter opened last year.

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“There is more that 106 people in need in our city. The system is going to fail. We are just wasting money if it is not properly funded.”

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Arcand recalled when the shelters were located in downtown Saskatoon and didn’t have the proper peacekeepers or staff in place.

“Inadequate staff resulted in tons and tons of police calls,” Arcand said.

His request supports a recent letter from Saskatoon’s board of police commissioners calling for more solutions for people with complex needs in the community.

A 2022 annual report showed that in 2022, calls for outreach assistance surpassed all other calls for service, prompting the letter to the provincial government in July.

The outreach calls included housing issues, wellbeing checks, counselling, public safety, mental health, and medical assistance.

The police letter told Saskatchewan Minister of Health Paul Merriman, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Everett Hindley and Minister of Social Services Gene Makowsky that there is an urgent need for facilities and supports for people with complex needs in Saskatoon.

In response, Hindley and Makowsky said they were committed to finding solutions to address those issues with partners.

The majority of the response consisted of the province talking about the work and funding already designated to help address homelessness and mental health issues.

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“We are lacking treatment facilities. We are lacking detox beds. When somebody says I’m done doing this stuff, what do we do? There is nowhere to take them,” Arcand said. “People that are continuing to use drugs, needles, crystal meth that choose not to quite are the ones that are causing problem throughout our city and I think we have to find a solution to that. We don’t have the staff to deal with those individuals who are here.”

Arcand said that approximately 30 to 40 individuals at the Wellness Centre would be considered to have complex needs.

“We are turning people away because they are committing acts of violence here, so they are getting pushed away because they are disrupting the facility, they are threatening staff, they are being very aggressive.”

He said that most of these individuals are using drugs and are later committing crimes throughout the city.

At a Saskatoon conference in June, Mayor Charlie Clark noted that the city needs 100 beds that are require 24-hour care.

He said the community needs to work with the city to find places where that kind of housing would succeed, suggesting that they need to be spread across the city in different neighbourhoods, and that they need to be established soon.

While providing those would require investment, Clark added they would be much cheaper than sending people to emergency rooms or jail.

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“We just need a facility,” Arcand said. “Then we put a hiring note there. We have a good model here.”

Arcand mentioned that the Saskatoon Tribal Council doesn’t have the funds to purchase capital projects such as a new facility.

— With files from Global News’ Brody Langager

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