Youth shelter opens in Saskatoon
- John Lagimodiere | March 15, 2021
The number of homeless youth in Saskatoon is growing and the Saskatoon Indian & Métis Friendship Centre provides support for them.
SIMFC has opened the doors of the Wicitizon Shelter as part of a new daytime drop-in place for youth with services and supports to meet their unique needs.
“When youth are living on the streets, they are surviving at night so they don’t get the opportunity to sleep,” said SIMFC Programs Manager Charleen Cote. “So, we are providing a safe place for them to come and sleep. The whole centre is a safe place for them. We provide food and culturally rich activities. We have all Indigenous staff. And we work with them to try and transition them to a place of safety and security.”
The need for a place is real. The last point-in-time count on homelessness in Saskatoon in 2016 showed 200 homeless or under-housed youth. “There are way more than that now and a majority are Indigenous,” added Cote.
The shelter’s name, Wicitizon, is a Saulteaux word meaning “to help oneself.” The shelter is made possible through funding from Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership. There is capacity for up to 12 youth at a time.
“Our place is culturally different than other programs. Kids are looking for that connection to their culture,” said SIMFC Executive director Robert Doucette. “They can see that everyone they work with here is Indigenous. And they can see that success and role model behind that. I think of the youth like me that aged out at 18 from the system with nothing. This is an incredibly good program and I think at lot of kids will benefit from this.”
The Centre works with private landlords and other partners to provide housing and emergency transition services and within its first three days had 14 regular users.
They expect more clients in the cold days of February.
“They can come and use our computers and phones to stay in contact with their family. We feed them. They feel safe here. They like we aren’t pushing them into other services,” Cote said. “They come to us on their terms. And we will meet them where they are at.”
The Centre utilizes rigorous COVID-19 protocols to ensure that the youth, other clients, and Centre staff stay safe during the pandemic. Youth enter and exit through the gymnasium doors and have access to a cot, food, and activities. The drop-in centre is open daily 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.