North Battleford homeless shelter loses 90 per cent of provincial funding

By Duncan Cairns-Brenner
February 16, 2016 - 5:30pm Updated: February 17, 2016 - 6:52pm

UPDATE: Minister Donna Harpauer responds

The only homeless shelter in the Battlefords is struggling to keep its doors open after a provincial funding cut.

In December, The Lighthouse homeless shelter in North Battleford had its provincial funding cut by as much as 90 per cent. 

“We received the warning (from the Ministry of Social Services) one day and the very next day our funding was cut,” Caitlin Glencross, manager of The Lighthouse said.

“Basically the ministry has created a very narrow definition of what homelessness is and for all the people who do not fit into that narrow definition they will not provide funding at the homeless shelter for them.”

Close to 90 per cent of those using the shelter are not receiving any government funding to be there.

“Last night we had 31 people stay and only one person qualified under the ministry of social services definition of homelessness,” Glencross said.

“For those qualified as homeless they give us $68.50 per day and that covers staff supervision, three meals a day, bed, laundry, showers, for one day, for one person.”

In Saskatchewan, shelters are funded on a per diem basis. They are not core funded like they are in other provinces.

Due to the drop in provincial funding, outside donations are accounting for an increasing portion of The Lighthouse’s finances, with the shelter’s own fundraising efforts becoming financially indispensable.

“After the cut in December, we fortunately had the Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs step up and give us some emergency funds. If it hadn’t been for them we would have closed our doors Jan. 30, and that would have been the end of the road for us. The funding they gave us will hold us till March,” Glencross said.

Although it varies day to day, on average 50 per cent of those using the shelter each night come in intoxicated. 

“We were told that anyone who is intoxicated would be covered by the Ministry of Social Services because it is a liability for intoxicated people to be out in the street and that drastically changed in December when they decided not to find those with addictions,” Glencross said.

Before December, 2015, the shelter was receiving funding for many, although not all, of those staying at the shelter while intoxicated.

“We work on a harm reduction model where we allow people to come in as they are as long as they are able to walk through the door, and are medically stable, they can be here. We are there to provide the service to the community’s most vulnerable and unfortunately a lot of those people do not fit into that box that social services has created to define homelessness,” she said.

 People living on reserves are regulated under federal jurisdiction, making them ineligible for provincially funded programs such as The Lighthouse.

 “North Battleford is a large urban reserve area,” Glencross said. “If they are considered on reserve, people are not able to be funded here either. That’s another hindrance for us to be funded.”

 “We get people from all the surrounding reserves, it’s not one or two reserves, it’s all the reserves,” Glencross said. “If the Lighthouse had to close it would be a great loss to the community.”

The meal program The Lighthouse runs is run almost entirely by volunteers and is contingent on community donations for its food.

“We’ve only been able to carry on because of the community support,” Glencross said.

The Lighthouse Battlefords is holding a fundraising walk on Feb. 20, in hopes of raising $25,000 to help keep the shelter open.

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