Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand stepped forward on Tuesday to address some of the stories coming out of the Fairhaven community regarding the Emergency Wellness Centre.
He said he wanted to address a pastor in the community, noting that he’s getting frustrated with him.
“This pastor is really frustrating me in Fairhaven because he runs a church, and if we look at our churches in our city and our province and our country, they are probably one of the wealthiest organizations,” Arcand said.
He said he heard the pastor say in an interview with other media that the pastor locked the door on another individual, and Arcand took issue with the situation.
“I’m concerned about that because they should be opening up their door. One of the commandments is thou shalt love our neighbours. Why is he locking his door? How is he helping the system? Who is he helping in a homeless situation? Who is he helping in addictions and mental health?”
“The answer I see is zero,” Arcand added.
He said this pastor needs to change the way they do things, and open up their door to help people.
“He never came back to the shelter and talked to our manager and saw what’s going on. But there’s a perception here that he needs to be an adult and come and talk to me instead of media.”
“Churches are supposed to be a good faith place, and I’m really disappointed with these people becuase of how they’re conducting themselves.”
Arcand says they have police stats saying that the crime has remained the same in the Fairhaven community since the wellness centre opened back at the end of November.
He said one side of the story is getting told, and it’s causing problems.
“So they’re telling one side of the story, and it’s not fair. I need them to stop that, because it’s causing hardship, and it’s a divide-and-conquer tactic that I do not support.”
“I’m not going to sit and fight about helping people in our city,” Arcand added.
He noted that support from others within the city has been strong, adding they had over 400 Christmas presents donated to the wellness centre.
Arcand said he was frustrated that a press conference needed to be called to confirm the work that the wellness centre is doing.
He said he addressed one of the stories that was brought up about crime at the 7-Eleven on the corner of Pendygrasse Road and Thomas Crescent getting worse.
“The 7-Eleven manager and my manager have reached out and talked.”
Arcand said they found out people from the wellness centre are spending money at the 7-Eleven when they can, and there hasn’t been any crime.
“They’re not stealing, they’re not robbing, they’re not doing anything.”
He said there was a robbery in the community on Saturday and the wellness centre got blamed for it.
“It’s not all Fairhaven residents, it’s only a select few, but they’re adding fuel to the fire, they’re spreading gossip, not truths, and I’m tired of that.”
“People are out there spreading lies and corruption, and all this other stuff which is unacceptable,” Arcand added.
He said these lies need to be called out.
Arcand went through the stats from the Saskatoon Fire Department and Saskatoon Police Service, noting that incidents have not risen in the community.
But Arcand also wanted more focus on the success stories.
He said the demand for the wellness centre is high, noting that the building has 106 beds with the potential to house some extras in the lobby through the night.
Arcand noted they had 583 people in three weeks waiting for beds at the wellness centre.
“We have a homeless problem in our community, in the city of Saskatoon, it’s not just a neighbourhood problem.”
Arcand said that many people don’t understand why people are homeless or have addictions issues, and those people should not be judgmental.
“We’re actually helping people, I don’t need to defend that.”
He said they received a complaint from someone about a person with stuff piled by the Tim Hortons, noting that if people have issues like that the STC Sawēyihtotān Mobile Services should be contacted, with all the info listed on their website.
Ward 3 councillor David Kirton says he’s been receiving some concerns from people regarding the wellness centre.
He noted that police and fire are working on a coordinated approach to community safety and have been focusing it on Fairhaven, and he’s hoping to speak more about it in the next week or so.
Kirton said police and fire are in the area checking up on the wellness centre every hour.
“People in Fairhaven are going to see more police and fire, cruisers and the like. That doesn’t mean they are responding to a call, it just means they’re making their hourly check in with the wellness centre,” Kirton said.
He noted he supports what the wellness centre is doing.
“What’s going inside the building I think is saving lives.”
Kirton said he’s calling on the provincial government to take a look at this situation, noting he wonders if enough wrap-around services are being provided.
“I just think the province needs to step up more.”
Kirton said he’d like to see the community, the pastor, as well as Arcand and others gathered together to discuss these issues.
“We need more conversation. We need more communication from the city as well. I don’t think people know there are these opportunities where police and fire are stopping every hour at the wellness centre.”
He stressed that if there’s an incident, residents need to call police, noting that the call act as data for officers.