SASKATOON — Don Campbell knows homelessness firsthand having lived and survived on the city streets for almost six months.
He says he hopes no one will experience the same thing that hundreds like him have gone through.
That’s why he is thankful for the staff of the Emergency Wellness Centre and the leadership of the Saskatoon Tribal Council, which has organized and operated the facility that provides shelter to homeless persons and offers services that help them get back on their feet.
“I was scared at first. It was tough for me, as I had just lost my wife, Barb. I didn’t know what to expect when I got to stay at the centre. They welcomed me and those who stayed there were treated like family,” Campbell, told SASKTODAY, he has regained dignity.
“The beginning was a little different. I did not know what to expect during my first two nights at the centre, but I got used to it after that. I got to know the rest of the staff and things went well. I was there from February to July. I now stay in my apartment, got my dignity back and everything else.”
Campbell added he felt hopeless after losing his wife and being homeless, which he considers among the lowest points of his life. He is thankful for all the assistance the staff at the STC wellness centre provided.
“They [EWC staff] helped me out in everything. All the things where I needed help and get my dignity back. I also made new friends like the staff and other relatives at the centre. They helped me with counselling.
“I also received grief counselling at the Church of Christ aside from the ones that the EWC staff provided and other things that helped me get back on my feet and the feeling of being treated like a normal person,” added the 68-year-old Campbell, who is now retired.
Campbell is now staying in his apartment after being one of the relatives that STC helped find permanent housing. He had the chance to stay at the centre during the extremely cold weather conditions in February and until July before being one of those housed permanently in an apartment.
“The cold was brutal, and I didn’t have the proper clothes for the weather. When I went to stay at the centre, they gave me clothes, a warm place to stay and meals. I got back on my feet because of them [STC and EWC staff]. That’s all I can tell you,” said Campbell.
“The whole program is great; there’s no other way to describe it. People don’t know the feeling of being homeless until they experience it. Some say you should not be building this [wellness centre] here. How would you know the feeling if you’re not homeless?”
Campbell said the new facility will accommodate more relatives and has more open space than the temporary centre downtown, which was crowded and operated primarily at over-capacity during winter’s cold weather.
He added that he supports STC Chief Mark Arcand’s idea of a centre in each of the 10 wards of Saskatoon, as it would do good to spread out the services provided and offer a temporary solution to the issue of homelessness in the province’s largest city.
STC’s temporary EWC in the 100 block of 1st Avenue North downtown opened in December last year. They are now moving to a permanent facility at 415 Fairmont Drive, where more than 100 beds would be available to relatives.
The new facility can also be expanded to accommodate more relatives, the term the STC and EWC staff use for the individuals — Indigenous or non-Indigenous — that they welcome and help with services like a warm place to stay, meals and counselling.