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Addressing Unsheltered Realities: An Insightful Conversation with Saskatoon's Fire Chief, Morgan Hackl

Without a doubt, the homelessness crisis continues to grow across the nation, and it particularly resonates in Saskatchewan. In their attempts to remediate the harms connected to unstable housing, community organizations and first responders are often left taking the lead. In the face of our province's previously underwhelming response, I felt compelled to invite Saskatoon's own Fire Chief of the Year, Morgan Hackle, to offer his insights on the issue.

Morgan believes firmly in the journey of reconciliation, emphasizing growth within an inclusive community. What struck me most was his sense of pride in being a Saskatoon resident. His willingness to dive into the pressing issues was incredibly commendable. It's this kind of initiative from local leaders that ensures the continuation of important conversations about the metropolitan issues we face.

Morgan explained how a significant part of his understanding and perspective shifted when he participated in a homeless challenge set by Sanctum Care Group. This experience allowed him a first-hand glimpse into the world of homelessness, paving the way for him to participate in proactive mitigation work with the homeless in 2021.

In our discussion, we touched upon how other provinces have been responding to the homeless crisis, notably through tactics like clearing away encampment residents with police interference - a method which Saskatoon chose not to follow. Instead, they believed in a proactive, supportive approach, through collaborative efforts across various organizations within the community.

Diving deeper into the homelessness situation, it's clear that there is a shift in demographics amongst the homeless. More and more, women and younger people are appearing amongst the unhoused, which is a deeply concerning trend.

I also learned about the process that the Saskatoon Fire Department initiates when they encounter unhoused individuals. They don’t just show up with a truck, load up belongings, and ask people to leave. Instead, they take time to establish relationships with the individuals, offer them assistance, and work with them to ensure they can take their important belongings.

Yet, there are often questions and concerns expressed about the possible normalization of homelessness in our communities. To this, Morgan responded that in midst of these diverging opinions, he ardently believes in the power of relationships, trust, and taking a human rights-based approach to supporting people – wouldn’t we all rather normalize that?

As we concluded our conversation, I was left with the profound sense of commitment that SFD has towards the unhoused community. While admittedly not every venture is successful, it’s the persistent effort that eventually leads to an 80% success rate of getting individuals to accept some form of help. The takeaway? A traditional home is the ultimate goal for everyone’s safety.

Throughout this insightful conversation, I was reminded of the significance of shifting may viewer lens to consider the lived experiences of others. As we grapple with these societal issues, it's critical to challenge our preconceived patterns of thought. Our efforts to understand and support individuals in distressed situations can be the change we need to see in the world.

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