Canada

Homeless people still facing pandemic challenges: Saskatoon Tribal Council

Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) Chief Mark Arcand said Saskatoon’s vulnerable population is facing many of the same challenges it faced during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And, according to outreach program numbers, that population needs more help.

Arcand told Global News the pandemic exacerbated existing mental health and addictions issues from which homeless people were suffering and said those issues continue to plague the STC’s outreach programs clients.

Read more: Sea of orange descends upon downtown Saskatoon to raise awareness on TRC calls to action

He also said outreach staff are meeting with many people who aren’t yet vaccinated against COVID-19.

Figures provided by Arcand and Sahweyitotan, an outreach and housing program run by the STC, show staff had 138 interactions with clients, whom staff refer to as “relatives,” in May.

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That doubled to 280 in June and remained the same in July.

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Staff count any meeting with a client as an interaction. Arcand said the figures count some repeated meetings with relatives.

But either way, he said the increase is concerning.

“We know they’re out there,” Arcand said.

“But it’s more alarming when we know that they’re not being treated right… and it just keeps moving forward and moving forward.”

He said Sahwehiytotan staff told him many of the relatives they’re meeting with haven’t yet been vaccinated, though he couldn’t provide a specific number.

Read more: Saskatoon Indigenous outreach program focuses on cultural connections

He told Global News the vulnerable people who haven’t yet been vaccinated are in that situation because they don’t know enough about the vaccines, since they don’t have access to TV or the internet.

“So they’re they’re kind of sitting in the dark not knowing what what this all means,” Arcand explained.

He said he’s very worried about what the spread of the Delta variant, on top of the worsening mental health and addictions issues, will mean.

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He said the STC is exploring more options for future vaccination clinics that will focus on reaching homeless people.

“They’re part of our community, they’re part of our city,” he said.

“They just come with some challenges and we have to understand those challenges.”

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