SASKATOON -- In the first six months of an Indigenous-led outreach support team, Saweyihtotan, the group recorded 477 interactions, leading to safe housing and meals for Saskatoon's most vulnerable people.

Saweyihtotan is a pilot project designed to support the needs of people who are homeless in downtown Saskatoon. The organization is led by the Saskatoon Tribal Council, the Ministries of Health, Justice and Social Services and is at arms-length with about 12 other community agencies in Saskatoon.

The organization began operating in the fall of 2020, and on Monday the group is presenting its mid-year report to Saskatoon city council.

According to a report prepared by Saweyihtotan, the program recorded 477 interactions between Nov. 17, 2020 and Feb. 4, 2021. Data shows the majority of these interactions were with Indigenous people at 77 per cent and Metis people at six per cent, according to the report.

Thirty per cent of interactions with with individuals between 40 and 50 years old, while 23 per cent were between the ages of 30 and 40. 20 per cent of interactions were with people 50 and older, according to the report.

Daily checks made up the majority of calls at 78 per cent, while 53 per cent of interactions included meal delivery. Most importantly, according to Saweyihtotan, 69 interactions resulted in housing.

According to an internal Saskatoon Tribal Council briefing note from Jan. 31, 2021, the project housed five individuals in long-term housing for more than one month: additionally, the outreach team also mediated 32 possible evictions of individuals living in long-term housing, according to the report.

During the bitter coldsnap in February, Saweyihtotan participated in the Cold Weather Strategy, transporting 87 individuals to safe housing in response to requests from 10 agencies and businesses during the week of Feb. 3-10.

Following the closure of the Northwoods Inn, Saweyihtotan also helped re-home individuals displaced by the closure.

Saskatoon Police Services Chief Troy Cooper told the Planning, Development and Community Services Committee on Monday that “outreach is what is required” to help those facing homelessness, addictions and mental health struggles.

Mayor Charlie Clark also expressed his support for the program.

Clark requested a report on funding options for a possible $100,000 contribution.