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'Involve us in the process': Fairhaven pastor feels residents were left out of Wellness Centre discussion

With the emergency wellness centre (EWC) open now for almost six weeks in the Fairhaven neighbourhood, there are tensions surfacing between some living in the neighbourhood and the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC), which runs the facility.

Robert Pearce is the pastor at Fairmont Baptist Church, just down the street from the centre and says they’ve had seven minor incidents and four serious incidents at their church since opening.

“People were defecating under (the wheelchair ramp). We’ve filled it in with snow to prevent that,” Pearce, told CTV News.

Cleaning up messes like that is just one of the new developments the pastor says his church is dealing with now. Another happened during a youth gathering when an individual he said was high demanded to get inside.

“They were very angry and it was not a good situation. We didn’t let him in the building and he vandalized a sign on the building, which has since been removed,” Pearce says.

There are other examples of angry residents on the Ward 2 and 3 Facebook pages where photos and issues are posted daily by those in the area.

While the new problems in the area have been linked to the centre by some residents those in charge say the finger pointing must stop, and focus should be put on the number of people who are being helped.

STC Chief Mark Arcand says assuming individuals committing these offences were from the wellness centre is not entirely fair or without bias.

“Quit being judgemental. I’ll say it publicly. Quit judging people,” Arcand says.

Arcand questions the motives of residents like Pearce who he doesn’t see as being part of the greater solution to homelessness.

“We’re proud of the fact that we’re housing people, and they’re part of the whole continuum of care model. Once they’re getting care, we’re supporting them,” Arcand added.

There are 106 beds in the facility currently, and all are full with overflow in other areas as to not turn away those who need help. Makeshift sleeping quarters are set up in hallways or entrances to ensure everyone gets the help they need. In addition, the chief says 15 children are currently in residence. According to Arcand, some of the adults are working individuals who just need a place to stay.

When the centre first opened, Pearce says, he was hopeful it would be managed well and be a good way to help those who are homeless, but that thought has changed.

Even with this discontent about what has happened since it opened, the pastor says he’s committed to service and has even helped drive three separate individuals from the centre to hospital in the last month. One was waiting at the bus stop in front of the church and was in pain, according to Pearce.

“We’ve been praying for local ministry and local mission to help people and it’s here, 300 metres down the street from us,” he said.

His issue is that he doesn’t think the neighbours were asked or directed properly about what to expect when the centre opened and the influx of new residents arrived.

“Involve us in the process because the reality, I confess, I don’t think the lease on that building in October should be renewed unless the community votes and agrees that it should be here, because the community needs to be invested in it and involved and whatever is happening and we’re not,” Pearce said.

There were four public open houses before the centre opened, and according to Arcand it was only recommended that they have one.

Chief Arcand also shared data from Saskatoon police, which indicates that up until this point, reported incidents of crime have either stayed the same or gone down in the area.

The Saskatoon Police Service tells CTV News the data is “reflective of calls for service to the Fairhaven neighbourhood. We have not had an opportunity to effectively analyze data for the Confederation Suburban Centre; of which, the Emergency Wellness Centre is located within. We are in the process of doing that now and do anticipate changes in activity in these neighbourhoods, including increased pedestrian traffic. We will continue to monitor the level of activity over a longer period; knowing that cold weather also influences this data.” Top Stories

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