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Saskatoon Fairhaven group wants massive cut to STC shelter capacity

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A group of Fairhaven residents are ramping up their fight to see the city’s largest shelter cut down to less than one-third of its current capacity.

The group was instrumental in organizing protests against a proposed 30-bed shelter in Sutherland, leading to a motion in city council on Wednesday that effectively quashed the facility.

Fairmont Baptist Church pastor Robert Pearce has become synonymous with the neighborhood’s battle to overhaul the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) wellness centre down the street.

He told CTV News he’s ready for the biggest fight yet. Pearce says residents of the area have initiated a 90-day action plan.

They want to see the wellness centre reduced to 30 beds from the current 106 beds and to have the STC replaced as operator.

“We’re informing the province and the city, this is our expectation with this, and this is where we’re moving to, and we expect them to get on board and we expect them to help us, because this has gone on long enough as it is,” said Pearce.

“We have been neglected and we have been ignored and it’s taken this to wake people up to the fact that this isn’t right,” he says.

They’ve also started an online petition asking for relocation of the Fairhaven shelter that’s garnered over 500 signatures in several days.

Pearce admits he was surprised by the developments of last Wednesday’s city council meeting where officials agreed to change the distance a shelter can be from a school, a motion essentially designed to take the proposed location in the Sutherland fire hall out of the running.

Pearce says the motion neglected to consider Fairhaven’s schools.

“Why are our children worthy of less consideration? We have facts and figures and news reports of things happening at Fairhaven schools and they’re 700 metres away,” he says.

Councillor for the ward David Kirton wasn’t in favour of the motion to change the distance requirement which ultimately cancelled the Sutherland shelter.

He says it was a missed opportunity.

“Had we gotten Central Avenue approved, yes there were concerns, with ACT Arena and Bishop Filevich school, but this was a 30-bed facility with no complex needs,” Kirton said.

Kirton acknowledges there’s a sense on certain Facebook pages that Saskatoon’s west side gets less consideration at city hall, but he says shelters need to be in all areas of the city to avoid this perception.

Pearce, meanwhile, says he doesn’t want areas of the city pitted against each other. He said Sutherland residents showed up at the recent Fairhaven rally at city hall and they are still offering his group support.

“They said we’re still supporting you and we’ll help you get your resolutions, and you’re right, this is a city-wide thing.”

Pearce tells us he is running for councillor in the ward in the next civic election, while Kirton wouldn’t say what his plans are. 

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