La Ronge homeless service back after funding lapse

·2 min read

La Ronge's homeless outreach program is returning after its third closure in roughly 12 months.

Scattered Site Outreach Program closed at the end of March because it didn't have confirmation of funding from the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Kikinahk Friendship Centre executive director Ron Woytowich, who manages the program, received word on Wednesday that its funding was renewed.

"As a non-profit, I had to shut the place down because I had no contract and funding is tight. Those are the rules," he said.

He hopes to reopen the service by Friday or Monday, saying "it's a necessary element of this community."

While the contract is typically renewed yearly, "everything went wonky this year," Woytowich said. As a result, the program shut down at the end of the fiscal year, at the same time its related overnight services also closed.

The program employs five people, two of whom are full-time. One of those left to pursue other work while the service closed, Woytowich said.

In 2020, about 122 people used it, 40 of whom are regulars, he said. About 20 clients who are homeless use the service every day, he said.

The program can be life-saving for clients living with addictions or without stable housing, but it's also faced operational challenges that have caused it to temporarily close twice before in the last 12 months.

Mayor Colin Ratushniak said he's pleased it's returning. He would encourage the organization to come forward for support to avoid similar closures, he added, noting it's only a matter of time before next winter.

Ratushniak said he hopes the program will find a longer-term form of support and will approach different sources to would avoid similar disruptions that "put our vulnerable at risk."

Ratushniak said he has set up a meeting with the Ministry of Social Services and is aiming to approach the Ministry of Justice about more funding options. He also called on community members to donate their time to support the program.

"What are we waiting for? It doesn't have to get to that point every single time where we're scrambling."

Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix