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Sask. church pastor wants shelter shuttered

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In an open letter directed to the premier of Saskatchewan, a Saskatoon pastor is calling for a shelter near his church to be shut down.

Robert Pearce, the pastor of Fairmont Baptist Church, wants the Saskatoon Tribal Council's (STC) Emergency Wellness Centre to permanently close in April.

"We're watching crime increase. We're watching the homeless not really getting the help they need. We're watching millions of dollars being spent on it. It was just time to lay all the cards on the table," Pearce told CTV News.

"Our church alone has spent over $4,000, just dealing with vandalism and damage to our property."

The letter sparked frustration from STC Chief Mark Arcand.

Arcand said he can't control what people do when they leave the shelter.

"I’m tired of the racism and I'm tired of the bulls---," Arcand told journalists, shortly after Pearce posted the letter online.

Arcand called the letter an attack that fails to mention the positive work the shelter is doing for the city's most vulnerable.

Instead of pointing fingers, Arcand said the pastor should be part of the solution.

"I'm really disappointed and frustrated with this pastor ... How is he helping? He's not. This is a pastor. He's got to learn to open up his heart and his house, which is the church, to help homeless people that are addicted."

The pastor said he contacted the STC when the 106-bed shelter opened in December 2022.

"We want to donate clothing. We want to provide maybe a meal once a week. We wanted to help any way we could because we really wanted this to be something new, something great, something that could be replicated in other areas — so more homeless people could be helped. That was our heart's desire. And it's very clear they wanted nothing to do with us because they didn't even reply," Pearce said.

In the letter, Pearce suggests shelters should only house a maximum of 30 people and should not be allowed in residential areas.

In a statement to CTV News, the province said it's moving to a model of smaller shelters "to avoid concentration of vulnerable people in one area."

Shelter zoning is a municipal responsibility.

The STC said it's not changing anything about its shelter as a result of the letter.

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