Sask. Métis organization turns campervan and bus into mobile resource center

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A new center on wheels aims to help change Saskatoon by helping people find housing, food, clothing and other services.

The Central Urban Métis Federation Inc. (CUMFI) launched its mobile housing and community resource center on Tuesday.

For four days a week, staff will help connect individuals and families to the services they need inside a converted RV or smaller bus when it gets too cold.

Many of the people the nonprofit helps are at risk or are experiencing homelessness.

“When your transportation is working, it’s really hard to know where the services are,” said Federation President Shirley Isbister. Saskatoon morning Leisha Grebinski.

“And then you walk from one place and wait, then you walk to another place and wait,” she said.

“Our goal is to avoid this. You will know that when you get there, you will have service. “

To begin with, members of the association’s staff will manage the mobile center from a rotation of four car parks:

  • FreshCo Foods on 33rd Street.
  • Downtown Church on 20th Street.
  • McClocklin Necklaces at Westgate Plaza.
  • Giant Tiger on 22nd Street.

Everyone is invited to come and ask for help to access services or simply to warm up from the cold.

“We’ll provide winter clothes if they need it, blankets, all that stuff. If it’s to house them, we do everything we can to find them housing,” Isbister said.

The mobile center preserves confidentiality

CUMFI, which is pronounced “comfortable,” has both a converted recreational vehicle and a smaller bus to serve as mobile centers.

While the bus is better suited to the extreme cold, both vehicles ensure privacy for those seeking help.

Two staff members work aboard the CUMFI Mobile Shelter and Community Resource Center to help connect people in need of services. This small bus is used in cold weather. (Chanss Lagaden / CBC)

The larger motorhome has two separate areas, including an office in the back, to serve individuals and families.

CUMFI was able to convert the RV with $ 450,000 from the federal Reaching Home program, which funds initiatives to reduce homelessness.

The group chairman said that while the end goal is to have a stand-alone center, open seven days a week, the mobile option is a crucial starting point.

“We need a permanent building… a one-stop-shop where people can come in and get information and access services,” Isbister said.

For now, the mobile staff will be working to achieve the goal. Isbister said they would call outside agencies ahead of time to make sure anyone needing help can be seen that day, while also ensuring there is transportation available when it is cold.

Beyond dealing with the growing demand during the winter, Isbister said the organization still struggles to quickly reach the Department of Social Services when it requests financial assistance from those in need.

“It can be a long wait on this phone to wait until you can talk to someone,” she said.

“My goal today is to reach out to the ministry and see how we can speed up some of these processes, because I’m sure it’s the same with all other organizations and shelters.”

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