“Ready to go. New clothes and shoes that are too big after 5 tries,” was the first message Jean Morrison tweeted in the early morning hours of June 17. She, and nine other local celebrities, were about to set out to experience homelessness in Saskatoon for 36 hours as part of Sanctum Survivor, a city-wide fundraiser to increase awareness and understanding of the many challenges faced by people living with HIV who also experience poverty, homelessness and chronic illness.

10 local celebrities who participated in Sanctum Survivor

The 10 local celebrities who participated in Sanctum Survivor (from left to right): Ernie Louttit, author/public speaker; Jason Warick, reporter for Saskatoon Star Phoenix; Chief Felix Thomas, Chief of Saskatoon Tribal Council; Jean Morrison, President and CEO of St. Paul’s Hospital; Dr. Morris Markentin, physician and president of Sanctum Care Group; Shirley Isbister, president of Central Urban Metis Federation; Don Bolen, bishop of the Diocese of Saskatoon; Danielle Chartier, MLA for Saskatoon Riversdale; Brad Johner, singer/songwriter; and Jay Semko, singer/songwriter and bassist with Canadian band The Northern Pikes.

In teams of two, participants were given tasks to complete within the 36-hour time frame. Each task aimed to demonstrate certain challenges that are an everyday reality for those who are homeless and living with HIV in Saskatoon. In an attempt to make the challenge as realistic as possible, participants were not given anything to assist them on their journey – they wore donated clothes and shoes, and they were required to source their own food and lodging. Participants had access to a cell phone, but only for the purpose of updating social media sites on their journey.

The first challenge for Jean and her teammate Brad Johner was to get tested for HIV at the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC). After visiting the Council, Jean tweeted: “hats off STC Clinic! Sweats, smudging, elder available, supplies to prevent infections, HIV test, counseling, referral, snacks.”

Jean Morrison and her partner, singer/songwriter Brad Johner, as they head off on their first challenge: HIV testing at the STC health centre

Jean Morrison and her teammate, singer/songwriter Brad Johner, as they head off on their first challenge: HIV testing at the STC health centre.

A second challenge was to sleep in the same location that someone who is homeless would sleep. For Jean, it was Brief Detox. For others, it was the Salvation Army and YMCA. Five participants slept outside in Kinsmen Park.

Other challenges for participants included seeing a doctor without any identification, laundering the only set of clothes they were given at the start of the challenge, placing a call to the Ministry of Social Services to make an appointment, obtaining identification, and washing their hands at least nine times on the first day.

The fundraiser, which ran from 6 a.m. on Friday, June 17 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, was hosted by Sanctum Care Group in conjunction with Lux Events, volunteers and community organizations. Sanctum is a not-for-profit charitable organization that opened Saskatchewan’s first HIV transitional care home and hospice in November 2015. Its mission is to provide care to people living with HIV and AIDS that is dignified, non-judgmental and unconditional.

At the end of the 36 hours, on Saturday, June 18 at 6 p.m., the Survivors spoke about their experience at a reception held at the Airport Hangar.

Research indicates that 75 per cent of people living with HIV who are homeless and without support will die within five years. The people who access services at Sanctum are survivors who struggle to meet their basic needs. Sanctum attempts to address not just their physical needs, but also their social, emotional, mental and spiritual needs.

The fundraiser brought in over $130,000 in donations and sponsorship.


To view all of Jean’s Twitter posts, visit: https://mobile.twitter.com/jeanmorr14?p=s

Find out what reporter Jason Warick experienced: http://ow.ly/FXVn301rmoO #sanctumsurvivorYXE

Watch a video about the 36-hour challenge: https://vimeo.com/171483282

Watch a video about Sanctum Care Group: https://vimeo.com/171483179