Sawēyihotān project to provide housing, supports for homeless this winter
- Jeanelle Mandes | September 22, 2020
There were 475 homeless people in Saskatoon in 2018, of whom, 85.5 percent were Indigenous.
“It’s too many people… in a city like ours that has lots of resources,” said Mayor Charlie Clark at the recent announcement of a project to house homeless people this winter.
The Sawēyihotān pilot project, based at White Buffalo Youth Lodge, will place people in homes and help them get mental health and addictions services, said Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) Chief Mark Arcand.
The partnership between the City, STC and the Ministry of Social Services, will run through the fall and winter, from the end of September or early October to the end of March.
It will include a navigator, outreach workers and income assistance workers.
“This group is going to come together to work on short-term solutions…to get them into short term housing and after that, get them into long-term housing,” said Arcand. “The mental health and addiction [workers] going to visit them daily, every second day or weekly to help them with their addictions and their mental health.”
The project received its name from Elders Harry Lafond and AJ Felix. The word Sawēyihotān translates to ‘let us bless each other through our show of respect for each other.’
Indigenous organizations and Indigenous based approaches will be guiding the way for the project to bring in a more holistic approach.
The project is the result of “a few years of work to build a different approach on how to address homelessness and housing in our community,” said Mayor Clark. “The current system isn’t working to help people…who are hurting and falling through the cracks. I feel like we made a very important step to say ‘we are all in this together.’
“I believe we need and should be able to end homelessness and create better conditions and systems that get people into housing and to support people to stay in good housing,” added Mayor Clark. “This is only going to be successful if we recognize each other, value one another and take the time to learn directly from the people who are on the streets themselves.”
The 2018 homelessness figures were gathered by a point in time homelessness count and recorded on the Saskatoon Homelessness Hub website.
The Sawēyihotān team will keep track of how many people they help.
“[The Sawēyihotān Pilot Project] is actually being led by First Nations people,” said Chief Arcand. “Stay tuned because we are going to make a difference.”