Lighthouse cuts daytime programming after funding loss

(Source: CBC News, February 15, 2016)

Many of Saskatoon's most vulnerable citizens will not have a place to go during the daytime hours after the Lighthouse Supported Living shelter had to cancel programming. Last week, the Lighthouse cancelled its daytime programming for the stabilization unit, which is specifically for people under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

"It's really concerning for people because this is a safe place they can go during the day especially if they are not feeling well or if they are sick. We have a nurse here who can check on them as well as a paramedic to make sure that they are doing all right," Lighthouse communications director DeeAnn Mercier said.

The program cuts come after the provincial social services ministry applied more strict guidelines determining who is considered homeless. ercier explained that the majority of people who use emergency shelters in the province have to pay to stay. For some people that means taking money from their pension or income, but for a majority that means asking social services for the funding to stay in the shelter. If approved, Mercier said social services will send a form to the Lighthouse with funding to follow.

"But since about November 1st, they've been turning down 50 per cent of the requests. That doesn't mean the people stop coming, it just means that the funding has stopped following them unfortunately," Mercier said."So, we've had to make some tough decisions. Do we keep serving everybody? Do we only serve the people that fit that narrow definition of homelessness according to social services?"

The Lighthouse was operating at such a loss that they had to stop the daytime programming for the stabilization unit, Mercier said. The once 24-hour dormitory is now open from 4 p.m. CST to 8 a.m. CST. Mercier said it's impacting the "most chronically homeless, marginalized individuals in our community." The Lighthouse has been in talks with the province and recently received $150,000, which Mercier said helped them make up for the shortfall between November and January, but it isn't sustainable."We are actually looking for a policy change here so that hopefully people aren't funded through income assistance to stay here, but that the Lighthouse is core funded," she said. "So that the Lighthouse can provide that safety net 365 days a year whether…. every bed  is full or whether there is only 10 people here. We need to have the same amount of staff to ensure safety and support for individuals who come in seeking a safe place to stay."