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Emergency shelter being developed in Yorkton

Hoping for June opening
temp shelter
Angela Chernoff, shelter coordinator.

YORKTON - A new low barrier emergency shelter will soon be opening in Yorkton. 

The new shelter, currently being developed at 139 Dominion Avenue in the city, is hoped to fill a need known to exist in Yorkton, explained Stefan Bymak with the Prairie Harvest Employment Program. 

Bymak said they have recognized a need for a shelter for some time. 

“We’ve always seen that as a real need,” he told Yorkton This Week. “We’ve always wanted to develop it.” 

Then, in 2021, The Society for the Involvement of Good Neighbours (SIGN), along with Yorkton’s Social Housing Committee commissioned a report to assess homelessness in Yorkton. 

Bymak explained the report was completed in June of 2021, and reached the following conclusions in the executive summary: “The data provided evidence that the hard-to-house and homelessness issue in Yorkton is worsening, and a solution is needed to correct the path.”

One recommendation of the report reads: “input emergency shelter options that are all-inclusive”, “prioritize supports addressing mental health”, “address the largest barriers of homelessness” and “foster community partnerships that provide supports for those at risk of homelessness,” noted a fundraising letter circulated regarding the project. 

In October of 2021, Prairie Harvest Employment Program connected with Yorkton’s Social Housing Committee and began working on a plan to develop the low barrier emergency shelter. 

The group had purchased the building and were utilizing a section in the back to store vehicles used in their recycle collection effort. 

A portion of the front of the building – previously operated by the Yorkton Friendship Centre has been used for funerals and wakes, and Bymak said they plan to still allow that use, as it becomes something of a community centre which will also offer a breakfast program five days a week. 

The living quarters for the temporary shelter are under construction now. 

The shelter area will have 10 to 15 beds, and will be open to anyone needing a place to sleep safely on a temporary basis, and provided they are not a risk, for example are violent. 

The facility will be staffed 24/7. 

“We know we need emergency beds, we just don’t know the exact level,” said Bymak. 

Angela Chernoff, shelter coordinator said at present they hope the breakfast program can be launched in early May, and the beds in the shelter be ready for use by those needing a safe place to sleep in June, depending on construction and inspections. 

Currently Prairie Harvest is covering the construction costs to renovate the accommodation installing sleeping quarters and washrooms, said Bymak, adding those were initially estimated to be $60,000, but have climbed to $80-90,000. 

“We are committed to doing this.” 

That said Bymak said they are hoping to build partnerships. 

The plan is to collaborate with many agencies such as SIGN, Mental Health and Addiction Services, the City of Yorkton and others working together to help meet the needs of individuals facing homelessness in our community, he said. 

In terms of partnerships, Chernoff said they will also work with other agencies in the city to facilitate helping anyone using the shelter to gain support in dealing with issues such as mental health and addictions, to finding permanent housing and employment. The shelter staff will in essence be a bridge to those best suited to help those needing it.

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