Resiliency and Saweyihtotan making a difference

Mar 1, 2024

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For Annette Lafond there is no doubt in her mind about the impact that the Saskatoon Tribal Council’s Saweyihtotan Supportive Family Housing has had in her life.

“It gave me a chance when the world said I didn’t have a chance. All you need is one person to believe that you can be better,” Annette said through tears of gratitude as she described how the staff has changed her life.

The 43-year-old mother of four has called Saweyihtotan home since September 2023. She was homeless and living in a hotel when Saweyihtotan Transitional Navigator Sally Opikokew took the first steps to change her life.

“There was no housing available for us and it was looking hopeless for me. It was heartbreaking and soul-crushing. When Sally came to see me I was ready to give up,” Annette explained. “She told me about the programming and the housing. The first time I arrived it felt like I finally had a home and I was welcome.”

Annette has been homeless for over half her life and has battled addictions for 30 years but with the help of the programs offered at Saweyihtotan, Annette proudly admits she is now clean and sober.

“This place has saved my life. It saved my family, it gave me a chance that no one else would give me,” Annette explains. “I know I am safe and my kids are safe and this place saved me from killing myself. People like me don’t get second chances or even a chance at all. Once you are labeled as addicts or incapable of living properly that’s a stigma that is hard to break. When you are an addict people look the other way or kick dirt in your face, this place allowed me to stand on my own two feet.”

Annette has taken full advantage of a number of the programs offered at the Transitional Housing including meeting with Elders, a women’s support group, and cooking lessons. 

“I get involved as much as I can. I’m a bug,” Annette adds with a smile.

Having a safe place to call home is everything after her son was held at gunpoint outside the hotel where the family was living.

“Being able to get one one-on-one time with my support worker or the peacekeepers when issues arise helps so much. Knowing that the outside world can’t come in I know I am safe and I trust everyone I work with here. This place has helped me heal a lot,” Annette said.

“It makes me happy to know she has a home, she has a family, she has a community and she knows we are there for her. When I first met her, I knew right away in my heart that I needed to bring her in,” Sally said.

Having her new home has brought a sense of peace into a world that had been troubled. In return, Annette is giving back as she has volunteered to make garden boxes for the building to brighten the environment she now surrounds herself in.

“She is growing in her story. It is continuing. She has come a very long way, her future is bright and she will continue to succeed,” Sally explained.

“This place has become home and family for me, it is all I have. Everybody here means the world to me,” Annette confidently announced.

Two of her children have successfully moved out on their own while her son returns to take part in the men’s group for continued support. Annette meanwhile continues every day to work on herself and has a goal in the future to be employed as a harm reduction worker to keep giving back to the community.

To those who continue to struggle or are looking for help, Annette has a simple message.

“Don’t give up, it’s going to be worth it if you keep pushing through.”


* Sally and Annette pictured above

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