Saskatoon’s Lighthouse officially opens

September 11, 2012 - An apartment tower in Saskatoon that will give people a new, affordable place to call home has officially opened. The Lighthouse Supported Living Inc. tower project is an eight storey apartment building with 58 units that will house almost 70 people.

One of those people is John, who has been homeless since he moved to Saskatoon from Montreal in May.

"Most people don't realize that when you're homeless, the worst thing is the fear. You're scared. You don't have a base of operations. You don't know what's going to happen next."

As John looked around the one-bedroom apartment, he smiled describing how much he loves the view of downtown Saskatoon, the little kitchen and the solid handrails in the bathroom.

Those handrails are important for John who has had three strokes in the past year and uses a cane.

He said even though he lives independently, with this tower attached to the Lighthouse, he has support and help if he needs it.

"The fact that we're going to have a nurse downstairs just in case is like a safety net for a trapeze artist, it's there if you need it."

John is also in the process of looking for a job. It's the reason why he didn't want to use his last name -- he worries future employers might not take him if they knew he had been homeless.

The tower project will be filling all the suites with a variety of people including the working poor, recovering addicts, those with mental or physical disabilities and students.

Don Windels, executive director of the Lighthouse, said one of the two-bedroom suites is home to a family who was living in a campground in Saskatoon.

"They were literally camping. They couldn't find a place. They were having a hard time getting that first month and security deposit and so our staff worked it out with them that they could move in here temporarily until they could find a place."

Windels said housing is an important need that once addressed people can focus on larger issues in their lives.

"We strongly believe in housing first where you get someone a house and then they don't have to think about where am I going to stay," he said.

"We see a drastic change when (people) first come to us and they've been able to eat three square meals a day. They've been able to not worry about where they're sleeping and physically they get a lot better and once you get physically strong, you can think better."

The tower project cost more than $17 million provided by the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation, the City of Saskatoon and the Lighthouse.

(c) News Talk 650 CKOM, 2012