‘They’re people too’; Saskatchewan announces funding for youth safe house

The Saskatchewan government has agreed to fund a new type of home for at-risk youth in Saskatoon.

Michael’s Place, which has been quietly operating in a residential neighbourhood for about a year, will receive $662,506 annually, the provincial government said in a release.

Michael’s Place, run by Prairie Harm Reduction, is staffed 24 hours a day and houses five people who are permitted to use substances.

Kayla DeMong, executive director of Prairie Harm Reduction, said it offers residents something they may not have had before.

“That attachment piece is often missing,” she said, “whether it’s from their home communities or their families of origin.

“People need to belong somewhere, and if we can offer them that in this home, then maybe we won’t ever need to see them in our safe consumption site or in our drop-in services.”

DeMong said the funding shows government recognizes the value of harm reduction. Last year, the Saskatchewan Coroners Service reported 464 people died from a drug overdose – 83 of whom were Indigenous – a record number for Saskatchewan.

DeMong said the number of deaths will only grow if the government doesn’t do more.

“It is their job to take care of the people of this province, and that means all the people, not just the people that are convenient to support,” said DeMong, “it’s definitely harder, I think, to look at funding people who are actively using substances, but I think that we forget that they’re people too.”

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