Pleasant Hill Community Association calls for safety measures, supportive housing – Saskatoon | Globalnews.ca

The closing of an Affinity Credit Union branch in Saskatoon has prompted a community association to push the province to take action on provincial promises.

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“People are searching for shelter in our alleys, in our yards, behind our business and doorways, all rightly so, but there has been a lot of feedback from our members and businesses who service these people in our community,” said Adam Pollock, president of the Pleasant Hill Community Association.

The Pleasant Hill Community Association called on the provincial government for the second time this season to implement community safety measures and supportive housing initiatives in the neighbourhood.

“As far as violent issues go, Pleasant Hill has always had a larger amount of these things happening in our community … but these are all things that happen out of desperation so we just want to make sure that the provincial government is providing the resources to diffuse the desperation and the homeless crisis that we are facing,” Pollock said.

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At the beginning of the month, Affinity Credit Union’s St. Mary’s Branch in the neighbourhood announced it will be closing in April.

Pollock said the announcement of the closure was a hit to the area.

“It’s a hard blow to take. Pleasant Hill obviously doesn’t want to lose more and more basic services like doctors, pharmacies and banks. We are losing important cornerstones in our community.”

Prairie Harm Reduction, a nearby safe consumption site, said it has been assigned the blame.

“That happens when there isn’t proper education on these issues,” Pollock said. “We are focused on supporting these organizations so they can work effectively wherever they are.”

Prairie Harm Reduction said the root cause lies in Saskatoon’s housing crisis.

“The focus should shift from blaming Prairie Harm Reduction to questioning the provincial and city governments about what is being done to house and support these individuals,” Prairie Harm Reduction executive director Kayla DeMong said.

Data analyzed by the group in 2019 identified the area surrounding 20th Street and Avenue P as a hot spot for improperly discarded needles, HIV transmission and crime.

DeMong said approximately 700 individuals in the Pleasant Hill neighbourhood require various forms of support, with a significant portion facing homelessness or transiency.

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The Pleasant Hill Community Association said the community is in crisis and immediate action is needed to protect the housed and unhoused.

“Over the last couple years, we have noticed an unprecedented spike in the homeless encampments and the homeless people that we find in our community and with homelessness comes desperation and with desperation comes crime,” Pollock said.

The letter, signed “a community in pain,” asked the government of Saskatchewan to place income support workers in community agencies in the neighbourhood five days per a week, no later than Dec. 18.

The group called for 30 24-hour shelter beds by Jan. 1 of the new year and another 30 by March 31.

The units and beds requested by the community association have already been committed to by the government, but the group claimed they are long overdue, submitting new timeline requests.

The group also asked for 80 new permanent supportive housing units for individuals with complex needs, with 40 of the spaces operational by March 31.

Finally, the group asked the government to commit to bettering the Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) program by making improvements by Feb. 1.

“We would like to see income support workers in our community to help the people who are falling through the cracks get identification and get back on track. We would like to see changes to the SIS program because recent changes have caused it to be rendered ineffective.”

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The Saskatchewan government has committed to developing 155 supportive housing units in Regina and Saskatoon, 100 spaces in partnership with the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation and the remaining 55 in partnership with the Saskatoon Tribal Council at the former Monarch Yards.

A 15-person temporary emergency shelter is also going up where a former liquor store was at 1701 Idylwyld Dr. N. after the provincial government submitted an application for it to be located there. Fifteen additional spaces are also promised for the new year at a different, undecided location.

In 2024, $400,000 in government money will fund additional community safety officer positions around emergency shelters and other areas impacted by homelessness, mental health, and addictions issues. Building on the current Ministry of Social Services outreach services, an additional investment of $600,000 in 2024-25 will develop additional outreach supports in collaboration with community partners.

“Although the government feels there are measures in place to protect people, there are lots of people who aren’t officially checked off on a box in a document that says they need special help so those are the people that are falling through the cracks,” Pollock said.

— with files from Global News Andrew Benson and Brody Langager. 

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