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Saskatoon residents stage protest against incoming homeless shelter

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Residents of Saskatoon’s Sutherland neighbourhood took to the streets on Monday to protest a temporary 30-bed emergency shelter scheduled to open in their community.

About 30 people gathered at the intersection of Central Avenue and Attridge Drive with homemade signs, including slogans like “betrayed by city council,” and “I have the right to feel safe.”

Protestors told CTV News they were concerned about the lack of community consultation from the city in choosing the location, and worried the shelter residents would cause a surge in property crime and lower their property values.

They were flanked by a crew of vocal residents from Fairhaven who are actively campaigning against the Saskatoon Tribal Council’s emergency shelter in their own neighbourhood.

(Rory MacLean / CTV News)

The group also included a contingent of Ukrainian immigrants, some of whose children attend the bilingual Bishop Filevich Elementary school, located roughly 250 metres from the former fire hall on Central Avenue where the provincially-funded shelter is scheduled to open.

One Ukrainian woman, who told CTV News she moved to Canada 12 years ago, held a sign that said “fled the war, need safety.”

Organizer Rostyk Hursky said the Ukrainian students who recently fled the war have found a safe haven at Bishop Filevich school, and he worries their new neighbours will make them feel less safe.

“They came to Canada with the province and the city promising them safety … and so the school population more than doubled, and these kids come with their own challenges … from the war,” Hursky said.

Sutherland resident Sheila Brash says she resents that the city did not consult the community before choosing the location. She has unanswered questions.

“I'd like to know, for one thing, who's gonna go around and pick up all the dirty needles? Like the teachers can’t, they're busy. The police have other things to do,” said Brash.

“And I want to know is my property value gonna go down; are they gonna compensate me for when I need to move? They’re not going to do that, because they don’t care. It’s not in their back yard.”

The shelter is part of a Saskatchewan government plan announced in October 2023 to alleviate the homelessness crisis, which includes 60 new emergency shelter spaces and 15 complex needs shelter spaces for Saskatoon.

The province is funding the shelters, but asked the city to choose the locations. Alberta-based non-profit Mustard Seed has been tapped to operate the Sutherland facility.

The city had scheduled a community information session for this month, but it was recently rescheduled to March 11-12. More details on the meetings are expected this week.

A city web page dedicated to the shelter issue says the city is responding to the homelessness crisis with a “sense of urgency.”

“There is a crisis of homelessness, both with increasing numbers of people who are without homes as well as the risks that come with colder winter temperatures,” the city said.

“The city is responding to this sense of urgency by helping to identify emergency shelter locations for those experiencing homelessness.”

-With files from Noah Rishaug

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