The John Howard Society of Saskatchewan launched its newest emergency shelter program in January 2024, called the Willow Lodge, and the organization believes it has already made a positive impact on the surrounding community. 

“We have a large need in our community, we have a large, unhoused population. It’s not only in our community, but across our province and country. So, we saw the need, we saw people out on the streets with nowhere to go, and housing is always an issue,” said Crystal Peterson, Willow Lodge’s Manager. 

“When we were provided the opportunity to open a 15-bed, low barrier co-ed shelter we jumped on it.” 

Peterson takes pride in being able to make the shelters services open to as many individuals as possible. 

“We’re really proud to meet our guests right where they’re at. A lot of them are in the middle of a very heavy journey of addictions, trauma, maybe they are struggling with some mental illness. So, we are not going to turn anybody away.” said Peterson. 

While the barrier to entry is low, the shelter ensures a safe place for those who use the facility with some safety rules that must be abided by. 

“Our goal is to be good neighbors, and we are in the business of helping people,” said Peterson. 

 “Taking this vulnerable population off the streets and putting them under a roof for a good night’s sleep and some connection is just going to benefit our community.” 

Willow Lodge doesn’t just offer a secure place to spend the night, says Peterson. 

“Our number 1 is a roof overhead and a full belly at the end of the day. We serve them supper; we serve them breakfast before they go. However, our case workers actually go further and beyond that by helping them make connections with different organizations in the community.” 

She says that community support is crucial when taking care of people, as is setting up plans and providing the stability needed to make meaningful change.  

The services Willow Lodge offers have been utilized to their fullest, with the shelter operating at 94 per cent capacity since it opened in January. Willow Lodge staff have seen 77 new clients in that time and served a total of 435 guests in March alone. 

The shelter maintains at least two staff members working at any given time but often has three on hand, as well as four full-time caseworkers and a full-time assistant program coordinator to provide the services needed by their clients. 

The full-time staff is bolstered by numerous casual workers that fill in and assist when needed. 

Willow Lodge doesn’t operate alone, the organization has partnered with many like-minded organizations to provide the services their clients need including meals and snacks from Moose Jaw Families for Change, Hunger in Moose Jaw, and South Hill Fine Foods.  

Further support has come from Square One Community Inc., which provided facilities for clients to clean their laundry, personal hygiene products from the Moose Jaw Food Bank, and health supplies from Moose Jaw Public Health. 

For those interested in supporting Willow Lodge, donations are accepted every Tuesday between 4 and 6 p.m. donations of all descriptions are accepted, but the following items are in the highest demand:  

  • Juice boxes 

  • New men’s and women’s socks and underwear 

  • Soft granola bars and other snacks 

  • Clean gently used t-shirts, pajama pants and lounge wear 

  • Toothbrushes 

  • Toothpaste 

  • Deodorant 

  • Brushes/combs