In December 2012, service providers to Saskatoon’s homeless population – including shelters, health and emergency service agencies, police and housing providers – were convened by United Way of Saskatoon and Area to develop a cold weather strategy for the community.
Since then, the strategy has been reviewed and updated annually; most recently at a meeting on October 25th, 2016. Going forward, the Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership has taken on the responsibility of convening the Cold Weather Strategy team to review implementation, and make any changes to the strategy.
This strategy is designed to work with existing services and to ensure services work together so everyone sleeps in a safe place on a cold night in Saskatoon.
While individual service providers make their own policies, they also collectively agreed to be flexible with their policies during extreme cold weather to ensure people are safe.
This strategy is guided by the following principles:
- No one should sleep outside on a cold night;
- Individual dignity must be respected even in emergency situations: each person should have a bed or a cot, not just a mat on the floor or a chair;
- Everyone is allowed access to emergency shelter including intoxicated persons or those previously placed on a “do not admit” list from shelters;
- Family relationships should be respected: families and couples should be able to stay together;
- Warm, indoor spaces should be available 24 hours a day;
- Everyone will work to ensure that individuals and families experiencing or at-risk of homeless are aware of safe, available sleeping options.
A new protocol was implemented in 2013 to provide a cold weather alert to police/emergency workers and front-line agencies. The purpose of the Cold Weather Alert is to provide all participants with a Continuity of Operations Plan within the existing Strategy. This plan provides the structure needed for multiple organizations to coordinate their response to unusual circumstances that would reduce the capacity, or effectiveness, of one or more organizations in the provision of emergency shelter during extreme weather conditions.
Note: When a Cold Weather Alert is issued, it remains active until there is a notification email/text that it has ended.
When a cold weather alert is in place, any front-line service provider who comes into contact with a homeless person will be encouraged to take the extra step of ensuring that person has safe lodging arranged for the night.