Lighthouse opens 'stabilization' emergency shelter

CBC News July 18, 2013 - A Saskatoon shelter opened 20 new beds today, aimed at providing lodging for people with addictions who might otherwise end up on the street. "These are dedicated to housing men and women who are experiencing homelessness, and also may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol." said DeeAnn Mercier, who works at The Lighthouse. She said during the winter months, the police drunk tank is often the only other place where homeless people can sober up.

"That's just not a good use of resources for our city, especially for our police officers who have other things they need to attend to," Mercier said.

She said the stabilization shelter will accept both men and women who are intoxicated, in dormitory style cots. But she said it's not meant to be a so-called "wet" shelter.

"You cannot drink on the premises," she said. "You cannot use on the premises. This is just a place to sleep it off and be safe."

Right now, most shelters in Saskatoon insist overnight guests sober up, before allowing them to bunk there. The health region has a brief social detox centre, for those who also need medical attention.

"Unfortunately they have few beds," Mercier said. "The need has progressed beyond what their capacity is."

The overnight "stabilization" shelter at the Lighthouse will be open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. every night. Outside those hours, counsellors will offer intensive support to help homeless people transition into housing.

In its first year, the federally-funded Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) will give the shelter $200,000 to hire staff and operate services. The Lighthouse is also receiving an additional $198,848 from the HPS to renovate a more permanent shelter area. The Saskatoon Health Region is also providing financial support.

The Lighthouse also said it has completed renovations to its kitchen, office and cafeteria. New furnishings, equipment and security system were added as well, thanks to federal funding.

"Right now we're opening 20 beds, and our plan is to have 30 beds in the future for the project," Mercier said.

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