Souls Harbour Rescue Mission in Regina has merged with Riverside Mission Moose Jaw, and have a vision of a much bigger operation for the community.
Currently, Riverside feeds 50 to 70 people each day and houses up to 10 people a night.
With plans to add 22 more affordable housing suites to the city, along with employment options, Joe Miller of Souls Mission said they've already taken steps toward their end goal.
"Our vision is not so much just for Riverside Mission, it's for the Moose Jaw community, and our plans are much bigger than just the Mission. We will continue to provide the food services that Riverside offers. Riverside is unique, I believe it's the only provider in Moose Jaw where you can get lunch and supper each day, Monday to Friday. So that stays in tact. The men's shelter will stay in tact as well. And then they have some affordable housing as well. They have some suites, and they have some relationships with the health region for addictions, transitional housing. Those services will stay in place. Our vision is much bigger. We've already purchased land in Moose Jaw. We own the property at 212 and 218 River Street, so Riverside is going back to it's roots. We own a quarter of that block, and that's a lot of land. What we see is a new Riverside Mission, doing the same things it's doing. We want to add another 22 affordable housing suites, so there will be more housing options for the community."
With this land purchased, Miller said that they plan to copy the building that they recently built in Regina, which is designed in a unique way.
"What we built in Regina was a passive build. Basically, we have a facility that does not have a boiler system in it. So we're talking 22 inch thick walls. It's all about creating an envelope, and then using furnaces, not boilers, to keep the facility warm. Air exchange units move the air around. The entire roof is all solar panels. When we built that building, we looked at stewardship. How do we get the most out of every dollar that our donors give us. We saved about $1 million on the mechanical system, no boilers. And the solar energy helps subsidize the power costs. The facility that we build here in Moose Jaw will be the same. It will be the same type of design, a passive build. Not very common. But it's about making sure we're here 15-20 years down the road."
The history of Souls Rescue Mission can be traced back 29 years. It started with a woman by the name of Gerri Caroll.
"Basically she started serving coffee and making sandwiches and offering them to whoever needed food for the day from her home. next thing you know she's trying to get a building, she's made a deal with somebody and their giving her space that she can use for a while. The Porter's came to Regina in 1999, and they started Regina Rescue Mission. And they focused on recovery programming, so people struggling with addictions. Where Gerri was feeding and sheltering, they brought the recovery programming. And over the next few years they found themselves working together, and in 2007 those two organizations merged to form Souls Harbour Rescue Mission."
Today in Regina, they run a men's shelter with capacity for 24 men. They also have a women's addiction program. It's a 3 year program that people can leave at the 1, 2 and 3 year stages. Women and their children can come together, which allows the family to go through the recovery process together. They run 2 60 spot subsidized daycares within Regina, as well as an at risk youth centre through a partnership model. Working with local organizations, they provide the facility and the partnerships provide the programming. "An example would be 'City Kids'", said Miller.
In addition to that, they have almost 50 affordable housing suites, another building with 30 suites, and another with 17 suites.
"And we're involved in a bunch of work that we do with different organizations within the Regina area. Now with the addition of Riverside Mission, we'll be able to continue feeding and sheltering. In Regina we feed 250 people a day along with those 24 men."
Souls, and by extension now Riverside, has a strong focus on community.
"I can't say everything that's in the works", said Miller. "But we'd like to partner with one or two other organizations and kind of create a community centre. So a facility that has Riverside Mission, but that's not all that's there. There's 22 more suites. There's a retail component. Maybe we're running our social enterprise in Regina Soul Sister's Catering, maybe they have a connection here for the community. There are a lot of options. Maybe we can get another non profit or two. Maybe they're struggling a little and we can build a facility to allow them to move in and reposition themselves as well. Because in the end, we're all doing the same thing, and we're all trying to benefit the same group of people."
The merger officially took place on May 1st, 2019.
"It's only been almost 2 months now. We've started our marketing campaign. I will be down at Sidewalk days. I'll be there to answer questions for people, and try and share what it is we're doing and what we're thinking of doing and just connect with the community."