I am writing in response to a February 16th article in your publication entitled, “North Battleford homeless shelter loses 90 per cent of provincial funding”. As the Minister of Social Services, I feel it’s important for me to clarify some points on how we fund the great work of our partners at the Lighthouse.
I also need to reassure everyone that there have been no cuts to emergency shelter rates in Saskatchewan. In fact, our government has increased shelter per diems every year since 2008 by 21 per cent for individuals and up to 361 per cent for families. Saskatchewan people in need are also benefiting from the creation of 274 new shelter spaces since 2008 across the province, which is a 123 per cent increase. When the Leader of the NDP, Cam Broten, stands up and says funding has been cut he is just plain wrong.
Our Ministry does not have a contract with North Battleford Lighthouse for emergency shelter stays but pays the per diem rate for individuals eligible for Income Assistance. As well, our Transient Aid Policy allows people on an emergency basis to receive help.
The Lighthouse receives funding for services, regardless of eligibility, until eligibility can be determined by the Ministry shortly after the person accesses Lighthouse services. This means that no one goes without a bed while we review their personal situation. Social Services does not pay, beyond the Transient Aid Policy, for individuals who have the means to pay for their stay or individuals already receiving benefits from a Saskatchewan First Nation, for example.
With all this being said, I understand that the Lighthouse has some concerns with the current funding model. We certainly share these concerns and that is why we are working together with our partners in the health care, policing sector and the City of North Battleford to examine the need for stabilization and emergency shelter and the services provided by the Lighthouse.
Minister of Social Services
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