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'We’ve already had one too many people freeze to death in the city': Unhoused group wants extra funding from council

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A recently-formed Saskatoon group is hoping their presentation to city council creates change for those who face a lack of housing in the city.

The Saskatoon Unhoused Initiative was formed in October and with the help of donations they are handing out warm clothing, blankets and food on a wintery Monday outside city hall.

Sheila Tataquason faced homelessness between 2005 and 2008 in various cities across Canada, and while she now has a place to live, she knows the struggles those on the streets face.

She says she’s worked at various jobs, but found it difficult to pay the rent in the past which made her choose between eating and paying rent.

This event hit close to home for her.

“I’m here because I care for the people that are sleeping outside. Because I’ve experienced it and I know what it’s like to be sleeping outside in the winter,“ Tataquason told CTV News.

Members of the group also presented to city council Monday hoping for change from the city. Mikayla Schultz was one of those who addressed council.

“Our councillors and our mayor hear the voices from businesspeople, landlords, service providers, but it seems no one is listening to the people who are actually experiencing homelessness,” said Schultz, who is a member of Saskatoon Unhoused Initiative told CTV News.

One things that could be done quickly is to have round the clock emergency warm up locations, says Schultz.

Some suggestions for overnight warmup shelters include a stationary city bus, heated and open to the public — already in place in Regina — and heated bus shelters.

“A lot of our group members are asking for 24-hour warmup shelters because a lot of the warm up spots are only like a nine to five sort of thing so there’s nothing available overnight,” Schultz says.

Schultz worries what will happen as the weather cools down if no solution is found.

“Just to get them out of the cold because we’ve already had one too many people freeze to death in the city.”

With the Saskatoon Tribal Council’s new larger wellness center opening in Fairhaven this week, it’s hoped some of the pressures for those who are unhoused will ease.

The Unhoused group will continue to be out on the streets providing hands-on help, but ultimately hope city officials see the need to fund more solutions.

“I’m hoping that they realize it’s not only an organization’s problem but the city as a whole,” Tataquason said. 

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