Saskatoon mayor, community leaders say Sask. COVID-19 plan has 'serious gaps'
The Lighthouse Supported Living in downtown Saskatoon.
SASKATOON -- Mayor Charlie Clark and other community leaders have sent a letter to Premier Scott Moe asking for increased support for the city’s homeless community and greater cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter was sent on Monday and asks the premier to provide more support for organizations that house and feed vulnerable people in light of the COVID-19 pandemic
“Right now it is an urgent time for the province and it needs to be an immediate priory to get the systems in place to support the vulnerable population; we have community agencies who have come together in an unprecedented way to work and provide services to community shelters,” the letter said.
It was signed Clark and other community leaders including the city's director of emergency planning Pamela Goulden-McLeod, Saskatoon police Chief Troy Cooper and Saskatoon Tribal Council Tribal Chief Mark Arcand.
"We are appreciative of the fact that the Ministry of Social Services has been willing to have preliminary conversations about the vulnerable sector strategy with us. But the biggest gap in our ability to respond as efficiently and urgently as is needed, is the lack of a formalized process for coordination and communication within the Ministry of Social Services, and intersectorally, with other ministries such as Health and Justice," the letter said.
The letter also outlines what are described as 'serious gaps' when it comes to assisting the city’s vulnerable pollution during the pandemic.
The city is asking the province to support Indigenous and First Nations people, more money for shelters, a hotel-based shelter system and a streamlined approach to testing for COVID-19.
“We have more people becoming homeless as a result of some of the challenges with income and job loss, so we have a larger homeless population and less capacity in our existing shelters," said Clark.
“We need a hotel based strategy but if you just set up a hotel without good supports in place to help people struggling with mental health and addictions then it will ultimately take an intensive case management.”
On Tuesday the province announced $171,000 in funding for 10 shelters to help deal with the pandemic. The Lighthouse expects to get about $35,000; however, the executive director added that the funding will not be enough to support services.
Clark says he is hoping for a response from the province soon.
“This issue affects multiple ministries and we need to have a problem-solving capacity from leaders in those ministries to swiftly come up with resources,” said Clark.