Welcome to CFCR Community Connect where we help connect you with local community organizations in Saskatoon. Explore our monthly Community Connect Features to discover the meaningful and impactful initiatives of these organizations and learn more about how you can be involved!
This November, we are connecting you with the Saskatoon Friendship Inn.
Located within the heart of the innter-city on 20th Street and Avenue G, the Saskatoon Friendship Inn has served community since 1969. Informally connected to multiple local agencies working in the vulnerable sector, the Inn approaches collaboration as being a good neighbour.
Through community partnerships and authentic relationships, the Saskatoon Friendship Inn fosters a compassionate sense of belonging for our neighbours in need by serving daily nutritious meals, offering friendship, and providing referrals and programming that meet people where they are.
The Saskatoon Friendship Inn serves vulnerable people by offering free breakfast and lunch meals, 365 days of the year with no questions asked. As of October 2023, the Inn is averaging 1200 - 1600 daily meals. This represents a 30-35% increase in need year-over-year.
Serving with compassion, offering dignity and reserving judgement are core principles. It is assumed everyone who comes to the Inn has a need for food, friendship or to take a good step forward. Guests can access support services and agency referrals via the Inn’s Family Worker.
What types of programs do you offer? What’s your most successful program?
The Friendship Inn provides a Free Meal Service, serving up to 1200 – 1600 meals every day of the year by offering hot, nutritious breakfasts and lunches to vulnerable people from Saskatoon’s core neighborhoods and beyond who may otherwise go hungry. The Inn relies almost exclusively on financial and food donations to deliver the Free Meal Service and depends on volunteer service hours of approximately 1200 hours per month to complement core staff in ensuring we’re able to prepare and share these meals with people in need.
Guests of the Inn often struggle with poverty, homelessness, underemployment, disability, health, mental health, addictions, intergenerational trauma, interpersonal violence and literacy challenges. Approximately 80% of guests self-identify as Indigenous (2022 PIT count).
Every day, 365 days a year, guests rely on the Friendship Inn to eat. We are one of the main agencies offering food security in our community and are known as a critical support within Saskatoon’s inner-city. When other human/social agencies closed their doors and stopped providing service during the pandemic, the Friendship Inn adapted and innovated to remain operational. We did not miss a single meal service. We feel compelled to ensure people who are vulnerable and struggling with the concerns and issues of daily life never lose this reliable, consistent source of food security, friendship and access to our in-house social worker.
The Friendship Inn is known in the community as a safe, compassionate, respectful environment. The Inn provides access to food and referral services for very vulnerable people. Our staff desire to improve quality of life for every person who comes to the Inn, and we strive to ensure no one is turned away or leaves hungry.
The Friendship Inn relies on fundraising revenue garnered through the generosity of donors, partners, granting agencies and corporate sponsorships to secure over 95% of the annual operating budget. Reclaimed or donated food resources are used to create 95% of the Inn’s meals. We are deeply grateful for the generosity of donors and community partners who give to support the Inn’s mission of serving neighbours in need with compassion every day of the year.
How have you seen your organization’s work make a difference?
“It’s humanity what you do - you prevent the chaos.”
The comment deserves some context as a story told by Executive Director, Sandra Kary:
It was Christmas Day. I was floating around the dining room handing out small gift bags with chocolates in them to each of our guests.
Barrie, a familiar face and regular guest of the Inn, thanked me for the chocolates, and said, “Do you know what you do?” “Um.. no, Barrie, what do I do?” I responded confusingly. And then the remark... It’s humanity what you do - you prevent the chaos. Whoa.
It’s true, without a place to eat a meal, to warm up, or to socialize, our community would digress. When a person is hungry, when an immediate, daily need goes unmet, what happens? Few of us really know.
Barrie told me the answer - it’s chaos when you’re hungry.
That one comment was all the gift I needed on Christmas Day, and about all the reality I could digest. I’m still digesting the truth of it, and the power of a few words from one man who knew better than anyone what we do at the Friendship Inn.
What are any challenges or obstacles your organization has faced? How were they overcome?
Even through the challenges of pandemic operations, we're proud to stay the Friendship Inn did not miss even a single meal service! We've adapted our operations, adjusted our dining room space, expanded our meal service hours and added a new take-away meal option to help ensure our vulnerable neighbours in need have access to food security.
Our challenges are perhaps best articulated through sharing the stories of the people we serve:
A woman called to inquire about sponsoring a meal. She shared how she and her young daughter had eaten at the Inn many times during a really difficult period in their lives, commenting the Inn was the only reason they were able to have a meal on many occasions. She said our kindness and non-judgmental approach helped make her feel welcome here. She is now in a position to share back with the Inn as a way of saying thank-you because we are so important for people who have nowhere else to go.
Reaching beyond food: Housing is increasingly cited as a daily concern and challenge by many guests who are seeking support at the Inn. Rent increases, supply and demand, inflation, employment, relationship breakdown, systemic barriers, mental health or addictions… the root causes of homelessness and housing insecurity abound.
Almost daily, the Inn’s social worker is called upon to help individuals or families avert crisis by securing shelter. Often, the complex needs of our guests mean these individuals require intensive resources and supports to remain successfully sheltered. Placements are not always possible, so the street becomes their only option. For these guests especially, the Inn is a lifeline for survival. Guests know they can come to the Inn for meals, access to washrooms, water and donated hygiene supplies we’re able to provide through our Compassion Project. These all help to offer a small measure of humanity in their daily struggle to survive, as does a listening, compassionate ear offered by someone on our team.
These stories reinforce why we are so driven to serve.
What is something that you wish more people knew about your organization?
It takes approximately $6 to prepare and share one meal with someone in need and we rely on the community to help contribute 95% of the financial and food resources required for the Daily Free Meal Program.
Success at the Friendship Inn is achieved when:
- Guests receive a hot, nutritious meal, with no person turned away due to lack of food resources.
- Guests are treated with respect and dignity and invited into a comfortable, friendly environment.
- Guests, staff and volunteers remain safe at the Friendship Inn.
How can the community help your organization reach its goals?
Through donations and volunteering!
What volunteer opportunities are there within your organization?
Volunteer support contributes approximately 1200 hours monthly and our Volunteers are amazing! Volunteer power is a key part of the Friendship Inn’s ability to provide healthy meals to those in need, 365 days a year. Volunteers share their time to help the Inn’s staff prepare and serve breakfast and lunch, experiencing a unique connection with community. The Inn depends on volunteers and offers opportunities for both individuals and groups to serve and give back!
Helping hands make every meal happen here at the Inn. Whether you’re helping with food prep or delivering meal trays, we rely on great people for Volunteer power.
No experience, special skills or capes required… we’ll suit you up with an apron!
You can learn more about individual or group volunteering opportunities at https://friendshipinn.ca/volunteer/
What about fundraising or donating opportunities?
Fill the Plate is the Inn’s primary fundraiser each December. The campaign invites daily sponsors ($6K commitment) and donations from the community to support the daily free meal program.
Over 95% of our annual operating budget is secured through donations from the public, granting agencies and corporate sponsorships. $6 helps to fill one plate and every meal makes a difference for someone in need. The Inn is very grateful for generous community support. You can learn more about how to support the Inn at https://friendshipinn.ca/donations/
Supporters have 4 options to give:
- Cheque, payable to the Saskatoon Friendship Inn and mailed/dropped off at 619 20th Street W, S7M 0X8
- By phone at 306-242-5122, select option 7 to speak with Laura Herman directly to record a credit card number
- Secure Online Giving Portal at https://friendshipinn.ca/donate-online/ (direct debit from your bank account or charge to your credit card)
- E-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org (please be sure to include your name and mailing address for receipting purposes).
All gifts are eligible for a charitable tax receipt. Charitable registration #: 116140937 RR0001
For more information about Saskatoon Friendship Inn, and how you can get involved, click below!
To submit your organization to be featured on CFCR Community Connect, please send an email to email@example.com