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New Yorkton emergency shelter offers safe shelter and food

Coordinator said the shelter has helped several people find housing since soft opening in October.

YORKTON – The low-barrier emergency shelter known as Bruno's Place held its grand opening the morning of June 16.

Representatives from multiple groups and organizations were in attendance for the event to celebrate the community's involvement.

"The need to provide emergency housing, addiction and mental health supports, food programming and general supports isn't something that we celebrate in our community — rather something that we grieve but also repair and respond to," said Stephan Bymak of Prairie Harvest Community Centre.

Bymak said it was 20 months ago that he received a phone call urging him to get involved in the development of an emergency shelter.

In less than 12 months from the start of planning, after securing funding from several different organizations, the shelter was providing emergency beds for the homeless in Yorkton, according to Bymak.

"When I take a step back and think about the bigger picture it really does humble me, because we live in a world where people are increasingly divided on rigid lines of belief and idealogy," said Bymak in his address to those in attendance.

"Agencies, organizations and individuals in this community have purposefully come together to provide help to people who are vulnerable and often turned aside by their communities in their most desperate times," said Bymak, adding, "no one group of people has all the answers in any situation — in particular when helping people work through complex issues of addiction, mental health, trauma, and emotional breakdowns — we need to work together."

"Our different perspectives should draw us together to search for solutions and opportunities to help others and that's exactly what we've seen in this community and that's what we're celebrating today," said Bymak.

"The shelter has ten beds right now and since we opened in October there's been many nights where we've been full or we've been over-full," said Angela Chernoff, shelter co-ordinator at Bruno's Place.

"We have people coming to us for all different kinds of reasons — often there's some kind of mental health and addictions involved, sometimes it's a breakdown of relationships, we've had lots of transient people just passing through the province — our whole purpose is to provide safe shelter and food," said Chernoff.

"What makes us really unique in this province is that we're open 24/7 and so we can provide three meals a day for our clients," said Chernoff, adding, "the shelter has been going really well in terms of being able to fulfill our purpose."

"We're still learning — we've got a lot to learn — we haven't even done this for a year," said Chernoff.

"We're still listening to our community partners in the community — 'what can we be doing better', 'what could we change', 'how can serve differently' — that's just what we're all about," said Chernoff.

The shelter is set to offer what they call community meals for those in need.

"That is open to anyone in need and I don't like to define that because that's changing all the time," said Chernoff.

The community meals include a breakfast from Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and a lunch Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 1 p.m.

"We're going to use this space to continue to do stuff like that and to offer more programming for our clients and also open up some programming for the larger community," said Chernoff.

Chernoff noted that since opening its doors in Oct, Bruno's Place has found housing for several of its clients.

"We have helped people get into housing — I think about 12 since we started," said Chernoff, "we've also supported people to go to detox and treatment because not everyone's goal is the same — we're going to continue to do that and to learn."

"Countless thanks to many but most importantly to Prairie Harvest with their pride, determination, their vision in helping those who need it," said Mayor Mitch Hippsely, who was in attendance for the grand opening, adding, "this amenity requires a tremendous amount of effort, planning and commitment."

"I cannot begin to tell you just how much our community needs Bruno's Place," said Hippsley.

"Our local world has seen an increase in homelessness — it's always been here — but very quietly and in less numbers," said Hippsley, adding, "our recent pandemic has poured gasoline on the fire that was always burning and made it even bigger and hotter."

"Our community operates much like a small town — the engagement of so many people jumping in at times of need — often all of us here in Yorkton are only one or two degrees away from separation and connecting, often all you have to do is ask," said Hippsley, "just ask and someone will help by way of time, resources and often money."