Fairhaven homicide victim was cancer survivor, 66, out on morning walk from care home

Harvey Zoerb loved horses, playing Johnny Cash on guitar and going for coffee with friends at Market Mall.

The 66-year-old cancer survivor also liked the freedom to come and go from the personal care home where he lived in the Fairhaven neighbourhood in Saskatoon. Last Wednesday, June 12, his roommate said Zoerb left the home sometime between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m. CST and walked to a nearby 7-Eleven, on the other side of Sears Park.

He never came home.

"Sometimes he gets tired of waiting for breakfast and then he heads out," said Darrell Runningaround, one of Zoerb's roommates.

Darrell Runningaround roomed with Harvey Zoerb.
Darrell Runningaround was one of Harvey Zoerb's roommates. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

Runningaround said he noticed the commotion that morning in the nearby Fairhaven School parking lot. Police cruisers, fire trucks and paramedics crowded the area by the hockey rink.

"The owner, the manager, come out and told us that Harvey was found outside the school."

Zoerb is the city's 11th homicide this year and his death has sparked outrage and fear in the west side neighbourhood. On the Facebook page Ward 2 and 3 Residents, many people are saying Fairhaven has changed dramatically — and for the worse — since the Saskatoon Tribal Council's emergency wellness centre opened in the fall of 2022.

And they do not hesitate to share the concerns when asked in person.

On Monday morning, Bob Meyer offered his take while sitting in his truck outside the 7-Eleven where Zoerb had gone on his last day. Meyer's lived in the neighbourhood since 1981 and raised his family there.

"We've warned that something major was going to happen because in the overnight, evenings we have multiples of people roaming the neighborhood doing no good. It was just a matter of time," he said.

Meyer said Sears Park, which stretches from the 7-Eleven to Fairhaven School, is beautiful during the daytime. At night, however, is a different story.

Bob Meyer says the neighbourhood has changed.
Bob Meyer says the neighbourhood has changed. (Dan Zakreski/CBC News)

"There's usually groups of people in the treelines. You'll see them quite often during the day sitting there, or else at night. There's often encampments along that treeline."

Aside from the Saskatoon Police Service's initial news release — which included police saying "there is not believed to be a threat to public safety" — there have been no arrests and no publicly-identified suspects in the homicide. Police have not identified the victim, or said how he died.

Remembering Harvey Zoerb

On Monday, Zoerb's family and friends gathered for his funeral and memorial. It streamed live from the Dalmeny Funeral Home.

Eulogist Cam Fraser described how Zoerb had grown up on the family farm near Vanscoy, Sask., and loved horses, "especially Arab and Flash," and that once he learned to play guitar he favoured singing Johnny Cash songs.

He was diagnosed with bipolar at a young age "and had his ups and downs," and that after getting diagnosed with cancer in 2019 he beat the disease with radiation and chemotherapy.

Fraser said Zoerb loved to meet friends at Market Mall and Confederation Park Mall, when not checking thrift stores for deals.

"We're shocked and saddened by his sudden and violent death," he said.

"We know he is safe in the arms of Jesus."

Saskatoon police investigators were on scene in the 400 block of Forrester Road, near Fairhaven School, on Wednesday morning after receiving an injured persons report.
Saskatoon police investigators were on scene in the 400 block of Forrester Road, near Fairhaven School, on Wednesday morning after receiving an injured persons report. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

The presence of the wellness centre in Fairhaven has been controversial. More than 1,000 people, most from the Fairhaven neighbourhood, have signed an online petition seeking relocation of the wellness centre, citing concerns about safety and increased crime.

The facility has 106 emergency beds for people experiencing homelessness. It relocated to the neighbourhood in the fall of 2022 from a temporary downtown location.

Chief Mark Arcand said the centre's 106 beds have been at capacity since it opened and there are hundreds of people on the waiting list.

"Fairhaven have been supportive all the way through and we're going to build that relationship," he said.

In September, Arcand said the centre took steps to evict people with "complex needs" who used drugs on the property. He said drug use and rule-breaking were problems that interfered with people who were there seeking help.

Complex needs is a term the tribal council uses to describe those who have serious drug addictions or mental health issues.

Bob Meyer's concerns echo those expressed by other residents in the neighbourhood. Their issue is not so much with people inside the centre.

"Most people don't leave their kids, play in the parks or go to the 7-Eleven by themselves just because of what's accumulated here since the homeless shelter has arrived," he said.

There are "addicts in roaming our neighborhood who all need drugs, who bring in the criminal activity to supply the drugs, etcetera, which all happens within the residential community and the parks."