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Saskatoon police board says officers often 'left with no place to take people'

Saskatoon’s police board is calling on the provincial government to do more to support the city’s most vulnerable population.

The Board of Police Commissioners sent a letter asking Saskatchewan’s Minister of Health, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and Minister of Social Services to develop new facilities and supports “for individuals with complex needs.”

“Due to a lack of housing and facilities, officers are often left with no place to take people and they are ultimately released back into the community without any form of support,” the letter reads.

Calls for outreach assistance surpassed all other police calls last year, according to the board.

Outreach calls include wellness checks and issues related to housing and mental health.

The letter says the Community Support Program has seen a significant spike in people sleeping in building vestibules, encampments, sidewalks and parks.

“The Board wishes to stress the urgency of this work … We are concerned that another winter without these supports will further escalate these issues in our community,” the letter says.

Kayla DeMong, the executive director of Prairie Harm Reduction, has worked around 20th Street for nearly 18 years.

“And I’ve never seen anything like we're dealing with right now. We have seen an incredible increase in homelessness over the last year in our community,” DeMong told CTV News.

DeMong says she supports the letter and echoes the need for more facilities.

“If you can give me 100 workers, if I have nowhere to take people, I can't solve any of the issues … we need the facilities and we need the housing, so that we can actually move people off the streets and work towards improving their quality of life,” Demong says.

The Board of Police Commissioners says it won’t comment on the letter until it has been discussed during its next meeting at city hall on Thursday.

In an email to CTV News, the Ministry of Health says "health and well-being of Saskatchewan residents is our priority."

The Saskatchewan government said it’s spending a "record" amount on mental health and addictions services. The government says the work includes: more addiction treatment spaces, expanding rapid-access counselling and extending a pilot program for overdose outreach teams. Top Stories

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