The building that housed Pleasant Hill Bakery — a fixture on 20th Street for more than 50 years — is set to become the new home of Saskatoon’s first safe injection site, following the bakery’s closure last week.
The bakery, which also doubled as the Community Learners High School from 2015 to 2016, closed last Friday.
“I think that neighbourhood is now at the point where it probably require a safe injection site more than it does a school, which breaks my heart but I think that that’s where things are at,” said Keith Jorgenson, who owned Pleasant Hill Bakery.
“At the time, we were trying to prevent bad things from happening. We’re kind of past that point now.”
Jorgenson said he and his wife chose to sell the building because they knew what it was going to be used for.
The decision was spurred by his personal experiences of drug use in the neighbourhood.
A little over a year ago, someone overdosed on the bakery’s back property and froze to death.
“I would rather have had that person do that inside not leave the needle there and not pass away,” Jorgenson said.
Our government has chosen to let this part of the city burn.– Keith Jorgenson , former owner of Pleasant Hill Bakery
Last year, his basement flooded because the drainage in the area became plugged with hypodermic needles.
“You try and [picture] how many hypodermic needles it’s going to take to clog a sewer,” Jorgenson said.
“There’s an astounding amount of drug abuse going on.”
13 former students dead
Jorgenson and his wife purchased Pleasant Hill Bakery because they needed a permanent home for the Community Learners High School, which he opened in 2010. The school worked with at-risk youth, teaching practical skills and giving youth employment while helping them work toward diplomas.
The school closed in 2016 after government funding was cut, but Jorgenson says he continued to offer jobs to at-risk youth in the Pleasant Hill Bakery and at Nestor’s Bakery down the street, which he and his wife also own.
During the years it was open, anywhere from 10 to 45 students attended the school at any given time. Jorgenson said between one and 10 students graduated each year.
He also said he knows of 13 former students who have died through “unnatural circumstances,” and said most of those deaths have happened since the school closed.
“By my calculation, [that] represents something like seven or eight per cent of my former student population is deceased, and that’s an unconscionable statistic.”
He compares the situation in the neighbourhood to the Fort McMurray, Alta., fire of 2016.
“Everybody just kind of dropped what they were doing and they didn’t ask how much it was going to cost; they just they responded because it was a crisis,” he said.
“Our government has chosen to let this part of the city burn.”