Funding provided during Saskatoon Health Region’s Better Every Day 14 Day Challenge could result in more housing units for people in need in Saskatoon.

Ribbon is cut to open Shirley Skelton

Shirley Skelton Manor was opened last fall.

During the 14 Day Challenge in February, the Region approved a pilot project to provide staff for Shirley Skelton Manor, a transitional housing complex that provides individuals facing homelessness, disabilities and addiction with a stable living environment while they prepare for more independent living. The 20-unit bachelor apartment complex run by the Saskatoon Housing Coalition opened in Saskatoon in October of 2014, thanks in part to the support of the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

“We are piloting having a Community Mental Health support worker in Shirley Skelton Manor seven days a week to increase their capacity to help residents, and a night Commissionaire to increase the security of the building,” reported Karyn Kawula, Co-Director of Mental Health and Addictions Services in Saskatoon Health Region.

The pilot is to last six months.

This support could potentially allow for the construction of another building on the same lot, also to be run by the Saskatoon Housing Coalition, to provide low-cost housing for those who meet the requirements.

“With this staffing, we can consider moving forward with another building, likely a long-term housing unit, on the same piece of land,” said executive director Jo-Ann Coleman Pidskalny.  “It will take a few years to make it a reality, but we couldn’t even look at that without more resources for our transitional housing.”

Shirley Skelton Manor is the first transitional housing of this kind offered by the Saskatoon Housing Coalition.

“Saskatoon needs transitional housing, but we did not offer it, so we decided to pilot this new service that offers housing to those who are dealing with an addiction or a mental health issue for two year terms, while they continue on their road to recovery,” Coleman Pidskalny stated.

Prior to the pilot there were issues meeting the complex needs of some residents in the apartment building. Emergency services were being called to the site regularly, and hospital emergency departments were being accessed to provide residents with assistance.

“We just needed more eyes and ears on site to provide more immediate support to the residents and make the building more secure,” Coleman Pidskalny said as to why the Region was asked to provide staffing to the site.

During the 14 Day Challenge, when Region teams were looking at new initiatives to provide appropriate care in the community, providing staff to Shirley Skelton Manor came up as an option, and funding for a pilot was approved quickly.

“This is a win for the Region,” said Corey Miller, Vice-President of Integrated Health Services for Saskatoon Health Region. “This housing transitions our clients from acute care back into the community setting with appropriate supports in place. This positions the client for more success, and should decrease the number of clients who need to come back into the acute care system, as they will have the right supports where they live, and will no longer need to try to access help through our emergency departments.”

Preventing the need for emergency and acute care through community services is part of the Region’s current patient flow initiative, 90 Days of Innovation: Ready Every Day.

Coleman Pidskalny expects the new staff on site will have an immediate effect with residents having access to on-site support, as well as the safety and security of the building.

“That face-to-face contact between counsellors and residents, and programming taking place right in the building, can make such a huge difference,” she said, “as can having a security person on site overnight.”