Square One Community Inc. is concerned this winter could be difficult on Moose Jaw’s homeless population and plans to create a warming shelter, one of several efforts to address homelessness.
During its Sept. 12 regular meeting, council voted unanimously to designate the community-based organization as a municipal project until Dec. 31, 2023, with either party able to terminate the designation within 90 days’ notice. This designation allows the city to provide charitable donation receipts to individuals and businesses that contribute to the project.
The designation also allows the agency to secure grant funding for its initiatives.
Square One Community Inc. (SOCI) — founded in 2021 after the COVID-19 community response committee folded — is now the 11th organization that council has supported via designated municipal project status. The other 10 include:
- Moose Jaw Arts in Motion
- Murals of Moose Jaw
- Saskatchewan/Moose Jaw Festival of Words
- Tourism of Moose Jaw
- Burrowing Owls Interpretive Centre
- Northwest Community Association
- Hillcrest Golf Club (expires Dec. 31)
- Moose Jaw and District Sports Hall of Fame (expires Dec. 31, 2023)
- Iron Bridge Sport Court (expires Dec. 31, 2024)
- Pickle Ball Moose Jaw (expires Dec. 31, 2026)
Housing instability was identified as a priority in a city-wide survey of agencies, so community agencies were invited to meet to address the issue, explained Della Ferguson, chair of SOCI.
Anecdotal evidence showed the need for housing and wraparound services to support individuals’ new beginnings as they started over at “square one” in their new lives. SOCI’s vision is that everyone has the chance to have their housing and basic needs met.
“We truly believe that with a community collaborative effort, together, we can create supports needed for our most vulnerable and we are willing to take the lead on this,” said Ferguson.
A team of “passionate” board members has worked to build up its projects, including hiring a co-ordinator, holding life-skill classes, building a website, developing a clothing closet repository, creating a volunteer bank, applying for charitable status, receiving a housed donated anonymously and holding several luncheons.
Furthermore, SOCI has met with the mayor and MLAs, collaborated with other community agencies, and worked with artists Bill and Laurette Keen on a mental health initiative, with all money — over $33,000 — going to the John Howard Society.
“Everything we have done is in an effort to fill in the gaps regarding homelessness that have yet to be met in our community,” said Ferguson.
There is a need to build a women’s shelter, a warming centre and a “navigator system” or central intake location so people can be connected to community services.
“We are working hard to research, collaborate and to take the lead on meeting these needs with a sense of urgency, as the cold weather is around the corner with a forecast of a deep cold in November,” she continued.
With emotion in her voice, Ferguson added, “Friends, the greatness of a community is measured by how we treat the most vulnerable. I know without a shadow of a doubt that you share the same passion as we do in this regard … .”
Coun. Crystal Froese thanked Ferguson for making this request, especially since acquiring a federal charitable status can take time. She commended the committee for being active and attempting to fill a gap in the community around homelessness.
“And it’s been a real learning curve for everyone involved, but it’s an absolute roll-up-the-sleeves active committee,” Froese added. “I appreciate … all the work being done around this issue.”
The next regular council meeting is Monday, Sept. 26.