Moose Lodge closure will have ‘traumatizing impact’ on vulnerable PA residents, says coordinator

The Moose Lodge Wellness Centre held a lunch in memory of James Sewap on June 9, 2023, the second anniversary of his death. -- Bailey Sutherland/Daily Herald

Prince Albert’s Moose Lodge Wellness Centre is closing its doors.

Coordinator Natalie Clyke said the centre doesn’t have enough funding to operate, and would need government support to sustain long-term.

“What we’ve accomplished here at Moose Lodge in these past three years is a stable, consistent, friendly environment where our people can come together in a culturally-safe environment regardless of their situations,” she said.

“It’s going to take a miracle to keep our doors open.”

The centre serves around 320 meals a day to people without homes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. It operates five days a week out of the Union Centre downtown.

A community BBQ on Tuesday hosted by Lake Country Co-op and Parkland Ambulance is raising money for the centre’s last meal on July 28.

“It has a prolific, traumatizing impact, even on our lodgekeepers, as we work towards these last days and these last meals,” said Clyke.

“We have to consider putting less food on the plates as we face that in the next two weeks our people will not have access to a daily, secure, enclosed food security outlet that has access to the essential services.”

This includes services offered by the Saskatchewan Health Authority, YWCA, Prince Albert Metis Women’s Association and Service Canada.

Clyke said the Moose Lodge acts as a gateway to people accessing housing and addictions supports, for example. She said the police also refer people living on the streets to the centre.

It’s closure will put increased pressures on police, paramedics and hospital workers, she said.

“We can see an individual either improving and you can see the steps and the strides that they’re making, and you can also see the deterioration and the loss of spirits that happens as you see a person declining.”

According to Clyke, the Moose Lodge would require $165,000 to operate as a daytime shelter until October. To survive as a year-round daytime shelter, in the both the winter and summer, the lodge would need $345,000.

Clyke said seven staff will be left unemployed. They also have two regular volunteers and several other casual volunteers.

At the forefront of the centre is treating the city’s vulnerable with respect and kindness, she said. Clyke said she’s witnessed improvement in the homeless population by simply acknowledging them with a hug.

“The hundreds of hours of overtime that have been put into evenings, weekends, during the Moose Caboose, during the coldest temperatures, during the hottest temperatures. Being at the hospital for our people, picking up people off of the street,” Clyke explained.

Prince Albert Grand Council Urban Services launched the Community Cares Kitchen at the beginning of the pandemic. In December 2021, it officially launched the Moose Lodge shelter at the Union Centre.

It’s named after James Sewap, who often went by the nickname Moose. Sewap died on a bench along the riverbank in June 2021.

“My daughter was there on the riverbank when James “Moose” Sewap was found deceased. It is in our existence,” said Clyke.

“We see our people everywhere. I can’t drive around with my big, notable blue truck without, even last night, having three of my people coming running to the window.”

The community BBQ raising funds for the lodge’s last feast will be held in the parking lot of the Co-op Food Store. The minimum donation is five dollars.

There will also be ambulance tours, SGI carseat checks, a bouncy castle and face painting.