Saskatoon group seeks volunteers for outdoor homeless warm-up camp
SASKATOON -- Following the success of an outdoor homeless camp with teepees and open-pit fires in Winnipeg, a group in Saskatoon hopes to erect something similar here to keep the homeless warm and safe during the winter cold.
“We have a lot of access to warm-up stations, the problem is they run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with a couple running 24 hours and unfortunately homelessness and cold weather doesn’t stop at 9 p.m.,” said Daina Kary, an Indigenous social work student at First Nations University of Canada.
Since she saw a video on social media, showing the makeshift homeless camp in Winnipeg, Kary and some of her colleagues have been organizing and reaching out to city organizations to see if they can make the homeless camp a reality in Saskatoon.
“We’re reaching out to other people who may have access to teepees, any kind of tents, any kind of donations,” she said. “We’re really focusing on and counting on the community to help us with this.”
One of the biggest hurdles would be securing space for the camp, known as Saskatoon Community Caring Camp. The camp aims to provide support for the homeless during freezing temperatures, a place where people can come when they are stranded in the cold, the group said on its Facebook page.
Reacting to the news of a woman who was found dead in Saskatoon during the recent cold-snap, Kary said it’s unacceptable in a city like Saskatoon to have people dying of exposure.
“It’s disheartening, those things shouldn’t be happening in a community like this, we need to ensure that they have the supports and resources,” she said.
Glenna Henderson with the group said even if they could work with private businesses and churches, tapping into some under-utilized space, it could mean the group gets going this winter.
“Just to have a place … where we can utilize that space that would be the best plan for now, instead of trying to build a village, that would be our goal for next year,” Henderson said.
Lyn Brown, executive director with Saskatoon Housing Partnerships Initiative (SHIP) said because of the public health restriction around number of people allowed to gather inside, the city’s Cold Weather Strategy and its warm-up locations have reduced capacity.
“In order to respond to the decreased availability of space in individual locations, we have added space by increasing the number of locations offering warm up areas,” Brown said. “An increase in warm-up space locations is always welcome.”
For anyone interested in joining the Saskatoon Community Caring Camp, the group is collecting donations and gathering volunteers through its Facebook page.