Sask. tribal council pushed local leadership for homeless shelter after it 'lost faith' in former operations
The agency taking over operations at a Saskatchewan homeless shelter says it was in desperate need of local leadership.
The Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs (BATC) said it’s been a long-time funder of the former Lighthouse shelter in North Battleford. Previously, the shelter was overseen by the Lighthouse, which is based in Saskatoon.
According to the BATC’s director of operations, it couldn’t continue to fund it without more transparency.
“At some point, we just lost faith. We really did. It’s not that they weren’t a good organization or anything like that. I’m sure everybody there is passionate, you’d have to be,” Alexis Christensen said.
“It was just that we couldn’t understand the operations, the financial aspect was a concern, some of the stories we hear locally and just the fact that there was no local representation besides one board member.”
The BATC took over operations on Oct. 1, giving the shelter the new name ‘Miywasin Kikinaw – a beautiful place.’
Christensen said clients are staying in a hotel while it renovates the building. This includes “a tremendous amount of cleaning, prep work, fumigation.”
The BATC, Lighthouse board, City of North Battleford and Métis Nation – Saskatchewan began talks in March about how to move forward with the shelter. The Métis Nation agreed to fund it for six months, ending on Sept. 30, to keep it up and running.
The Lighthouse agreed to lease the building to the BATC until at least March 2022 while it works towards a more community-based approach, according to a news release.
“In order to provide services to the community, it has to be a community-led initiative,” said Lighthouse board chair Jerome Hepfner.
He said, to his knowledge, there was nothing with the building that wasn’t up to code.
“We have had inspectors come through the building at different points during renovations and even in terms of kitchen operations,” said Hepfner.
“Given that it is a homeless shelter and people are coming in in whichever state they happen to be in, it would not be necessarily in the condition, say, that you would see in (your or my) living room.”
Hepfner said the Lighthouse is hoping to strengthen its relationship with other groups in North Battleford in order to provide better programming, such as addictions and cultural programming.
‘BRIGHTER FUTURE’ FOR THE HOMELESS
As the BATC takes over operations, Christensen said it’s also looking towards improving programming for clients.
“We really want to just create a one-stop shop model for them,” she said.
“Just looking for a brighter future for people. It’d be pretty hard to look past the day-to-day when there’s nothing more.”
Christensen said although the transitional phase has been “chaos” at times, clients seem to be taking it well.
“They understand that we’re here. We’re going to fix up that building, we’re going to try to do the best we can to bring in some high level programming,” she said.
“I just believe that we can all really take this into something innovative and creative and inspiring.”