'It's so frustrating': More people sleeping outside in Saskatoon, community support officers say
SASKATOON -- Frontline services in Saskatoon are reporting an increase in the number of people sleeping outside and refusing to use the various housing organizations in the city.
Rob Garrison, supervisor of the Community Support Program (CSP), said this has resulted in more calls for service and many more reports of open drug use.
According to his support officers, people are choosing to sleep on the street over isolating in a hotel or working with an agency to find suitable housing.
“It’s so frustrating because we can see that it’s not healthy, that it’s not safe, that they are putting themselves in a vulnerable position,” Garrison said.
Stylus Assiniboine told CTV News he’s been homeless since he was released from jail around two months ago. He said he’s currently trying to kick his addiction to crystal meth and finds it difficult to sober up and secure safe housing.
“My addiction is a problem because it makes me think people are judging me and they don’t want to help me,” Assiniboine said while resting near the White Buffalo Youth Lodge in Saskatoon. “The drugs make me think people don’t want to help. I have to break this addiction.”
While he does his best to remain sober, Assiniboine said he feels he’d have a much better chance of kicking his meth addiction if he was in a suitable home, admitting how easy it is to fall back to the drug through feelings of helplessness and despair.
“Most days it just seems like it’s never going to get better and we just give up on everything and accept being homeless. It’s a struggle,” he said.
On Wednesday the city’s street activity subcommittee met to discuss Garrison’s report. During the meeting Garrison spoke about the challenges of responding to calls where a person is intoxicated by drugs and the different challenges presented to his community support officers.
“I don’t know what the street level solutions are, it is alarming,” he said. “There hasn’t been a lot of improvement I was hoping for to help people under the influence, they are a difficult group to house short and long term. It takes more than just moving them along.”
Assiniboine agrees, saying that despite places to go to detox and help sober up, he finds himself trapped by his addictions again.
“There’s rehab and detox but after you’re done all that and you’re back in the world on your own, it’s nearly impossible to remain sober because of how life is,” he said.
Garrison reported his staff responded to 108 calls for outreach in May alone and with many calls keeping officers for hours at a time. On average Garrison said his team receives about 30 outreach calls a month.
The street activity subcommittee passed a motion to send a letter to the city’s standing policy committee on planning, development and community services to come up with ideas to improve access to housing for vulnerable people.