This blog post was written by our Saskatoon SP staff, Sarah!
As the first winter of the pandemic was fast approaching in late fall of 2020, our Saskatoon Site Leader, Katelyn Siggelkow, joined leadership from a local community church in imagining how the physical space of Meadowgreen House For All Nations (HFAN) church could be used for greater community care of the neighbourhood.
In previous years pre-pandemic and even without social distancing restrictions, many of the available public spaces in the Saskatoon core communities of Meadowgreen, Pleasant Hill, and Riversdale are often at capacity and it can be difficult to find somewhere to visit with neighbours, escape the elements, and connect with supports. This has a disproportionate impact on residents without secure housing!
This local church was prompted to envision how they could make use of their space as they witnessed how the difficult pandemic realities of isolation and lack of safe, welcoming public places were impacting congregation and community members. Under these circumstances, the HFAN church decided it would use its space in service of the neighbourhood beyond the weekend and evening ministry programs through hosting this Drop-in Centre. What a faithful example for this church community to recognize their resources could be shared even further during a challenging season!
With funding secured from Saskatoon Housing Initiative Partnership and a speedy effort to create staff training materials — the Drop-In Centre opened in late November 2020 and has been a bustling place ever since. Drawing from both the neighbourhood relationships that Servant Partners Saskatoon staff and the HFAN pastors have cultivated, the Drop-In Centre has largely employed local community members who have a passion for caring for their neighbours!
If you swing by the Drop-In Centre (after answering our COVID-screening questions of course!), you can expect to be greeted with a warm cup of tea or coffee made just how you like it, your choice of baked goods and frozen treats—if you’re lucky there will by fresh bannock generously made by a guest Georgina, some top hits from the 70’s or 80’s grooving in the background, and activities available like adult colouring pages, tablets, books, and maybe even a beading lesson or art class! You can add notable dates to our community calendar like local events, birthdays and other celebrations, or remembrances of loss that we can mark mindfully together. On your way out, there might be some donated local bread to bring home! Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to read the newspaper, connect with your neighbours, or share your struggles with a good listener and perhaps pray together—we hope that the Drop-In Centre is like a comfy, welcoming living room with a little something for everyone in our community.
Although guests rarely let our team go a day without reminding us how essential this place is, the impact of this Drop-In Centre has also been deeply felt by the staff team. At a recent meeting, a Drop-In staff member reflected again that she’s noticed a transformation from her original posture of wanting to “help fix these people” through this job, but now she “knows they don’t need fixing” and that rather our role as staff gives us opportunities to extend love, belonging, support, and affirmations of the dignity and respect all people are deserving of.
Another staff member reiterated how meaningful this employment opportunity has been—not only to connect with her community while earning extra income but it’s also served as a stepping stone for her to achieve her dream job!
As the Coordinator of the Drop-In,
I’ve been encouraged to see the many ways staff
have encouraged others on a downtrodden day (never underestimate the uplifting power of a socially distanced dance party), offering the sort of insight and wisdom that can only come from lived experience, grown their confidence in using their voice and responding to tough moments, and built meaningful friendships with guests. As our community grieves and seeks justice for the growing number of confirmed unmarked gravesites connected to residential schools, our team has created a collaborative art memorial and continues to hand out orange ribbon pins as small expressions of our support for all those impacted and the commitment of both Servant Partners Canada and our Drop-in Centre to cultivating right-relatedness among Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
The Drop-In Centre has offered our staff team trainings like Mental Health First Aid, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, Supporting People with Addictions, and de-escalation in the workplace. Staff members have reflected how valuable these trainings have been to not only support guests, but also to have these trainings as a tool in situations at home, beyond in the community, and helping build the staffs’ skill sets and resumes!
After being open for a few months, our staff team focused on identifying our personal gifts and how they intersect with the feedback we’ve heard from other community members about what is hoped for from a community space like the Drop-In Centre. From this process and a listening project that is currently underway in 2021, staff members have begun developing initiatives like a Seniors Support Circle for grandparents caring for their grandchildren, a beading class, a resume-support afternoon, and local live entertainment.
Although the fate of our future funding is uncertain, many staff members have generously offered to continue as volunteers so that we can remain open as a safe, welcoming and reliable space in the Meadowgreen neighbourhood. You can follow along @hfandropin on Instagram for more glimpses into all that’s going on at the Drop-In Centre!