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'A complete sh-t show': Saskatoon residents, property owners voice concerns about proposed complex needs shelter


A group of roughly 50 residents and property owners near a proposed complex needs shelter on Idylwyld Drive met Monday morning to express frustrations and garner support to oppose the facility's opening.

"It's a big safety issue for us. Being in the neighbourhood for the last 30 years, we've seen this neighbourhood has changed a lot, and unfortunately, it's gone from worse to worse,” said Rick Istifo, who organized the meeting.

"The province should have been a little more open about it."

Last week, properties immediately next to the former liquor store at 1701 Idylwyld Drive were given notice the province is applying to open an emergency residential shelter for up to 15 people, part of a $90 million plan to address the homelessness and addiction crisis.

This shelter would be for intoxicated people who are considered a danger to themselves or others and are in need of a safe place to stabilize for up to 24 hours under medical supervision.

The move comes one week after a Saskatoon Police Service report showing the service’s detention cells were one of the only sites available for brief detox.

Many people at the meeting wanted to know who is providing the services at the new shelter and what happens once a person is released after their detox period.

"That is our biggest concern," Erin Neufeld said. "We, as many neighbourhoods are, are struggling with the homeless in our neighbourhood. We don't need more complex needs folks brought in and left to wander."

Neufeld lives in the area and has two teenage children. She's opted to drive them around as much as possible because of increasing safety concerns over the last few years.

Istifo said he spoke with a Ukrainian newcomer near the proposed shelter who fled the war with Russia and now has entirely different anxieties.

"I left from Ukraine. I came here to live in peace, and this is now what the city is proposing putting behind my backyard," Istifo said, quoting the woman.

Councillor Darren Hill attended the meeting and answered questions pointed at the city. He told people the city was just as surprised by the application, and wasn't given much advance notice.

Hill also reminded people the building is owned by the province, and if the application is defeated in council on Wednesday, the province could appeal the decision.

"The city had nothing to do with selecting this location for the complex needs shelter," he said. "There's no component for public consultation from the city on this because it's not our project."

Hill says he intends to oppose the shelter because he has more questions than answers. He feels the facility shouldn’t be near a residential area, and like the residents, he wants to know what the overall plan is for the building.

Some residents from Fairhaven attended the meeting, hoping the city can avoid repeating a similar scenario after it approved the Saskatoon Tribal Council Emergency Wellness Centre’s move to the neighbourhood from downtown.

That shelter has since become a major source of controversy for residents.

"That is a complete shit show. It is a disaster for that neighbourhood and it has been from the day that it opened," Hill said to the crowd, explaining how the province similarly placed that facility in the area.

Robert Pearce, a pastor at a church in Fairhaven, vowed to support people living near the proposed shelter.

"We've been at this over a year in Fairhaven," he said. "We will walk with you. You're not alone in this."

The application from the province is for temporary use of up to 18 months. Council will vote on whether to approve or deny the application at its regular business meeting on Wednesday. Top Stories

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