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Saskatoon parents say new shelter will be too close to school

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Some parents are hoping to reverse a decision by the City of Saskatoon to locate a 30-bed homeless shelter in the Sutherland neighbourhood due to its proximity to an elementary school. 

“I really want people to understand that we recognize that there is a need for more shelters or wellness shelters, but across from a school and next to a skating rink, that’s not it,” Justine Magnus, told CTV News.

Magnus' kids, aged four and seven, attend Bishop Filevich Elementary, located roughly 250 metres from the former firehall where the shelter will be located.

“It’s going to bring in a lot more people and where do they go when they can’t get a space here,” Magnus asked.

Her children all attend a daycare that's close to the shelter location and frequent the nearby ACT Arena.

Amanda Braschuk is also concerned, she has a seven-year-old and nine-year-old at Bishop Filevich and she worries that the school playground could be a place individuals gravitate to for seating, shelter, or drug use.

“We’ve seen how playgrounds are affected when wellness centres like this are put in place. Fairhaven in our own city has proven to be a fail,” Braschuk said, referencing some of the issues people living in the Fairhaven neighbourhood say they have faced since a shelter opened there in 2022

Darren Hill said doesn't support the plan to open the shelter in his ward, which didn't require council approval.

“We’re going to be putting the safety of the residents of Sutherland at risk because of a rash decision by the senior administration of the City of Saskatoon and provincial government,” Darren Hill, told CTV News.

Hill says appropriate services need to be available which aren’t present in Sutherland. Those include addictions support, counselling, skills training and help finding permanent housing.

He said the city of Red Deer in Alberta took a better approach.

“They talked to businesses, residential, service providers, not-for-profit groups, ministries, and the people who use the shelters, and they came up with plan, a good plan,” he said.

“We’re saying 'pop it there, this building is empty.' That’s not a plan,” he said.

In an emailed statement, Saskatoon assistant fire chief Yvonne Raymer said both city administration and the Saskatchewan government found the former firehall "reasonably met the criteria" to house a shelter and is "close to support services."

A former firehall on Central Avenue is slated to house a new 30-bed shelter, (Carla Shynkaruk/CTV News)

The city has been in contact with the nearby schools and organizations that use the city-owned ACT Arena to share information about the shelter, including safety and security around the selected site," Raymer said, noting that more information is available on a dedicated city website.

But Braschuk said she's found details about the shelter hard to come by.

“The information seems to be withheld and as somebody who’s actively trying to find answers, I’m struggling to find them,” Braschuk said.

The city is planning informational sessions for mid-February to provide information about the shelter which is set to open in spring.   

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