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Friday, 06 October 2017 05:45

Social Services minister takes a tour of Dorie’s House during Swift Current visit

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Social Services Minister Paul Merriman (at left) is welcomed to Dorie's House by Southwest Youth Emergency Shelter board member Shaun Hanna (centre) and board president Bob Hale, Sept. 27. Social Services Minister Paul Merriman (at left) is welcomed to Dorie's House by Southwest Youth Emergency Shelter board member Shaun Hanna (centre) and board president Bob Hale, Sept. 27.

Social Services Minister Paul Merriman toured Dorie’s House during a visit to Swift Current on Sept. 27 to meet with different community-based organizations.

The minister’s visit took place a week after the Southwest Youth Emergency Shelter (YES) announced the temporary closure of Dorie’s House, an eight-bed emergency shelter for youth between the ages of 14 and 17 who are homeless or at risk of being homeless in southwest Saskatchewan.
In addition to Dorie’s House he visited three other community-based organizations in the city – Fresh Start, Southwest Homes, and the Swift Current Community Youth Initiative (The Center).
“I’m just trying to assess what are the overall needs of the community and of the area so I can have a better look at what is required within Swift Current and the greater area of Swift Current,” he said. “I haven’t been out here for a few years, certainly not as minister, and I just want to be able to have a good idea of what’s happening at the local level.”
He spent close to two hours at Dorie’s House to tour the facility and to meet with Southwest YES representatives.
“We had a very productive meeting,” Merriman said. “We talked about a lot of things, about the functionality of what Dorie’s House is doing in the community and it was a very productive meeting.”
He felt the trip to Swift Current was helpful to gain a better understanding of what the different organizations are doing in the community.
“It was great to come through,” he said. “It was a little bit of a whirlwind trip, but I spend the whole afternoon going through a bunch of different community-based organizations and seeing how they’re helping out the people in need in this community, and it’s great to see that the community has wrapped themselves around a whole bunch of different organizations.”
Southwest YES board member Shaun Hanna said the organization appreciated the visit by Minister Merriman.
“At the end of the day that’s what we’re looking for is basically a stronger partnership with Social Services,” Hanna mentioned. “We’re very, very grateful to Mr. Merriman for coming out today.”
He felt confident the organization will be able to have future discussions with the Ministry of Social Services.
“Our lines of communication are fully open and we’re willing to work with the ministry and they seem very willing to work with us to further those discussions going forward,” he said.
The goal of the Southwest YES representatives was to make the minister aware of the need that exist for an emergency shelter for youth in southwest Saskatchewan.
“The key point is need,” he said. “At the end of the day, too often these conversations are sort of back and forth about dollars and cents, and what it comes down to, but remember this is a community-based project because the community sees a need and to whatever extent there is a need in southwest Saskatchewan for a youth homeless shelter, we want to make sure that the ministry is also aware of that.”
Southwest YES is basically making a three-fold request to the provincial government about Dorie’s House: How to strengthen the relationship with the Ministry of Social Services and other government agencies, how to work within the existing framework and budgets without placing an additional burden on the system, and how to ensure future funding applications for Dorie’s work.
“Times are not always going to be so tough in Saskatchewan, budgets are not going to be so austere, and frankly you know when and if the government is in a position to help, we hope that they are able to do so,” he said.
The construction of Dorie’s House became a reality through community support. Local contractors and businesses donated their expertise, labour and materials, which resulted in the construction of the building during 2016. According to Hanna, the construction of Dorie’s House was part of a four-phase project.
“The first phase has been 35 years of research and public planning and interagency participation and co-operation,” he said. “The second was building that awareness piece within the community, what is the current need that needs to be met, and also the capital building project. The community in the southwest has been incredibly generous.”
The third phase of the project started in January with the opening of Dorie’s House. The purpose was to clearly illustrate the need for an emergency youth shelter in southwest Saskatchewan through the collection of data about the number of young people who are using the shelter.
“We had hoped that this pilot project would run a year,” Hanna noted. “We had looked at various labour models to make sure that we can stretch our existing funding as long as possible, and the truth is the board in early September felt that it would be fiscally irresponsible to continue to operate without having secure funding in place. That being said, use of the shelter accelerated throughout the eight months.”
The temporary closure of Dorie’s House was therefore scheduled for Oct. 4. In the meantime, the work will continue to achieve the project’s fourth phase goal to re-open the facility with support from both the community and government partners to provide long-term, sustainable service to youth who need secure shelter.
“We’re not going anywhere, and when we re-open our doors, we’re going to make sure that we never closing again,” he said.

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Matthew Liebenberg