North Battleford emergency shelter shuts down

·2 min read

An emergency homeless shelter in North Battleford is closing its doors.

The North Battleford Lighthouse emergency shelter program is being forced to close after losing about $500,000 from the Provincial Métis Housing Corporation — the bulk of its funding, noted Don Windels, executive director of Lighthouse Supported Living.

"It's not an easy decision," Windels said.

The shelter is set to close on April 1. Windels said he has approached the province and federal government for funding, but there have been no takers so far. He added that the closure isn't a slight against PMHC, which he described as supportive of the shelter.

The service has retained its smaller donors, but they don't provide enough money to keep it open, Windels said.

The emergency shelter, which is open 24 hours a day, has a maximum capacity of about 37 people, but it provides food for many more than that, he said. Those long hours also make it more difficult to pay staff and keep the service open, he added.

The closure also affects roughly nine long-term transitional housing units, Windels said. The Lighthouse's other supportive and transitional housing programs won't be affected.

The closure comes roughly seven years after community leaders first expressed interest in opening The Lighthouse in North Battleford. After buying the Reclaim Outreach Centre and undergoing months of renovations, The Lighthouse opened its services in January 2015.

Windels said he hopes to either find new funding partners or hand the shelter over to another organization. Meanwhile, the closure will affect a vulnerable homeless population in the midst of the pandemic.

"The province needs to come up with a housing strategy that includes shelters. And shelters need to be funded properly," he said. "Because it's really difficult to have a quality program without funds."

Pointing to the overdose crisis and the pandemic, NDP Leader Ryan Meili called on the province to provide the money that would keep it open.

In a prepared statement, he said it's unacceptable to "allow the crucial work the North Battleford Lighthouse does in service of the most vulnerable to be shut down due to lack of funding."

Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix