The provincial Ministry of Social Services is cutting funding to the Lighthouse stabilization unit.
The unit is a 20-bed dorm that houses intoxicated people who do not pose a security risk and who are not in need of medical attention.
It began in 2013 as a pilot project in response to a series of deaths in the Saskatoon Police Service’s cells.
In a release issued Wednesday explaining the cut, the province said a funding review found only five people who used the stabilization unit over the last year went on to make the transition to stable housing.
“After careful review of the results of the evaluation undertaken by the Ministries of Social Services, Health and Justice along with the Saskatoon Health Region, the government has concluded that the Lighthouse does not serve enough eligible clients to cover the cost of operating the stabilization unit in Saskatoon,” read the release.
The program has previously been hailed as a success for helping divert people away from police cells, emergency rooms and the health region’s Brief Detox Unit (BDU), a 12-bed facility where intoxicated people can be monitored by a paramedic for up to 12 hours.
Action Accord Saskatoon released a report in March 2015 crediting the unit with helping reduce the number of intoxicated people housed in the cells from 1900 in 2013, to 1500 in 2015.
Police praised the unit as recently as February of this year, when Chief Clive Weighill told the city’s Board of Police Commissioners that the unit had helped reduce arrests for public intoxication and was helping to keep people out of the cells.
At that time, Weighill noted an average call for public intoxication eats up between an hour-and-a-half and two hours of a police officer’s time.
In November 2015, the province contributed $1.5 million towards an expansion of the Lighthouse’s facilities for housing intoxicated people.
“Our government is proud to work with Lighthouse to help vulnerable citizens in this community have improved access to a safe place to live with supports in place if required,” Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer said at the time.
In February this year, the Lighthouse reduced the stabilization unit’s hours from 24-hours-a-day to 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m., citing changes to the way the province allows it to bill for people’s stays.
In its release on Wednesday, the province noted that other money not related to the stabilization unit will continue flowing to the Lighthouse.
The shelter has a contract with the province to provide emergency shelter for people on a per-day basis.
That contract provides for a minimum of $762,000.
According to the province, the Lighthouse received $1.15 million from Social Services to support up to 61 emergency shelter beds per night last year.
The province’s release went on to say that $623,250 in funding from the Saskatoon Health Region would also continue.
That money is earmarked for helping people with mental health and addictions issues stay out of the city’s emergency rooms.
At time of writing, representatives from the Lighthouse had not responded to requests for comment on whether the loss of funding would force the stabilization unit to close.