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High operational costs prevent warming space opening: Square One president

In February, Square One secured William Milne Place (the Old Firehall on Fairford St. W) in partnership with city council and the Moose Jaw Non-Profit Housing Corporation
William Milne Place, the old firehall, on Fairford St. W

Della Ferguson, co-founder and board president of Square One Community, Inc, reports that huge operational funding requirements are a major barrier to opening a warming space at William Milne Place.

“Here is our reality,” Ferguson said in a statement provided to “The cost of opening a safe and professionally supported warming space for daytime hours alone, for one season, would be in excess of $100,000. Community support has provided a space for people. Operational funding is required to advance the project. To date, adequate funds have not been secured.”

The history of Square One to date

Square One was founded in 2021 to advocate for unhoused people in Moose Jaw. They have since taken many steps to further that goal, including co-ordinating with every relevant organization/stakeholder in the City of Moose Jaw; creating a comprehensive list of resources for people with insecure housing and food; becoming a designated charity and municipal project; and brainstorming many fundraising events that have also served to raise awareness of homelessness issues 

In February, Square One secured William Milne Place (the Old Firehall on Fairford St. W) in partnership with city council and the Moose Jaw Non-Profit Housing Corporation.

The success of obtaining William Milne Place, however, plunged the all-volunteer Square One board into the complications of navigating all the red tape of a safe, professionally staffed, sustainably funded warming space — to say nothing of the additional goal of eventually establishing the city’s first dedicated shelter for women.

A report that Cheantelle Fisher would be the new General Manager of Square One’s William Milne operations turned out to be premature. Fisher pioneered the Syn’gage program at the Moose Jaw Food Bank and has passionately advocated for low-income and food-insecure members of the community. Fisher has said there is no doubt in her mind that changes (to the province’s social security systems) could be at least partially responsible for the skyrocketing homelessness in Saskatchewan and the steady increase in food bank usage.

Fisher is no longer affiliated with Square One, and in a board meeting subsequent to that development, several Square One board members also chose to step away.

Ferguson acknowledged in March that Square One was facing an unprecedented challenge with a steep learning curve — transitioning from fundraising and advocating for a shelter to actually running one.

The city’s only other warming space was operated by Moose Jaw Pride from a spare room at their Rainbow Retro Thrift Store. Moose Jaw Pride had difficulty in managing the warming space they offered without the kind of formal operational framework that Square One is pursuing. 

Its closure was a factor in Square One’s decision to work to establish a replacement.

What is next for Square One?

“We can only responsibly open (William Milne Place) when we have the capacity to do so,” Ferguson said. “(Square One) is working with key stakeholders in the community to seek support and produce a coordinated effort to address the (needs) of those who have no shelter for the upcoming cold weather season.

“Square One Community is working diligently on a local level for a local response, while communicating with our MLAs provincially, and MP, federally. The growing need for supportive housing options is not just a local phenomenon but is being experienced across our nation. 

"We need a federal solution with all levels of government involved. We encourage the community to speak to the local MP asking that federal funding be directed to a new Housing First program that provides supportive housing options.”

Ferguson said that Square One is currently preparing a report based on its recent Point in Time (PiT) Count — Moose Jaw’s first homelessness survey as part of the federal PiT Count program. The findings will help determine “informed next steps” for Square One, increase options for obtaining sustainable funding, and assist Square One’s work with community agencies.

“Square One Community is deeply grateful for the support the community has given to date through donations and volunteering,” Ferguson said. “An incredible 55 volunteers helped facilitate the PiT Count on Aug. 26 … under the incredible leadership of Desiree Lalonde, our PiT count co-ordinator … and we are humbled by such support.

“Square One Community will continue fundraising efforts with our upcoming Empty Bowls event on Nov. 17 at St. Andrew’s United Church; our ‘Home for the Holidays’ Raffle, to be drawn at the Empty Bowls Event; our Stronger Together Initiative in partnership with local metal artists Bill and Laurette Keen; the ‘Small Things’ Fundraiser hosted by The Light Yoga Studio on Nov. 19; our ‘little donation houses’ currently located at Moose Jaw Cultural Centre, TJ’s Pizza, and the Kinsmen Café; and our second annual ‘Walk for Warmth’ in the New Year.” 

A new mission and vision

This summer, Ferguson added, the Square One board has held regular meetings to help establish short-, mid-, and long-term goals.

The meetings have also resulted in a new Mission and Vision for Square One Community, Inc.:

    • “Helping adults who are housing insecure by building, co-ordinating and strengthening the continuum of supports in collaboration with the community at large.”
    • “Everyone has access to safe, affordable, and secure housing with their basic needs met.”

Square One Community will also create and publish a list of items needed for the operation of a support centre for those who are housing insecure, such as computers, a wall-mounted TV, a printer, kitchen cupboards, and more. 

“We truly are stronger together,” Ferguson emphasized. “If you would like to support the Square One Community efforts, please visit our website at for more information. Will you join us by sharing that vision and supporting our efforts in fulfilling that vision?”

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