STC’s Women Housing Facilities
- Judith Iron | May 25, 2023
The Saskatoon Tribal Council has opened a new facility designed to help recently incarcerated women transition back into society.
The housing facility, îkwêskîcik iskwêwak, which is Cree for “‘turning their life around’”, will house and assist 18 women who have been recently released from the Pine Grove Women’s Correctional Centre.
“The 18 women that will be walking through this door will have a home. They will have something they’ve never had before. They will have an opportunity to have that rehabilitation in their lives so they can have a quality of life,” said STC Chief Mark Arcand at the grand opening.
The facility, located in Pleasant Hill in Saskatoon, will offer an innovative approach to help Indigenous female offenders access holistic and culturally-informed supports they need to end the cycle of re-offending. The supports include access to mental health and addictions specialists, Elders, and safe, stable housing.
“It’s outcomes like this that are really making a difference,” said Arcand. “It’s in an area of Saskatoon that needs a bright light.”
The Saskatchewan government is investing $3.6 million over the next three years in the project. And the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation provided $486,000 for the construction of the housing complex.
“The significant investment from all levels of government shows true treaty relationships. That has to be the focus of what treaty means,” said Arcand.
“We don’t need to be investing in more jails. We need to do the reverse. We need to put the money in the front so it stays in the back-end,” he said.
The facility will be staffed 24 hours a day, said Arcand, and each room is furnished with its own bedroom, kitchen, and eating space.
As of Monday April 17, the facility will welcome its first six residents, and hopes to have all 18 in the facility by May 1.
“We are facing a crisis in our community when it comes to homelessness and addictions,” said Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark. “A big part of that is people being released from incarceration and not having housing and plans in place to help them land in the community and stabilize.”
Clark reflected on Kimberly Squirrel, a 34-year-old woman mother of six who tragically passed away in 2021, only three days after her release from Pine Grove Correctional Centre. He said programs like îkwêskîcik iskwêwak will help prevent these kinds of tragedies.
“It’s absolutely appalling to me that a woman would die when she’s released from prison because we didn’t care enough to provide her with the supports that she needed and, unfortunately, her case is not unique across this country,” said Pam Damoff, a Liberal MP from Ontario.
“A parole officer described it to me, like releasing people from prison and putting them on a three-legged stool and expecting them to sit. Without housing, without employment, without healing (...) we are setting these women up for failure,” she said.
Staff from îkwêskîcik iskwêwak and Pine Grove will assess which women meet the criteria to be placed in the home. All individuals entering the home will be screened by the province before moving into one of the suites.
Arcand said that there are already 100 women on the wait list to get into the facility from Pine Grove.