With the season turning quickly toward winter, the NWT Disabilities Council is preparing to open a day shelter for Yellowknife’s homeless on Oct. 1.
The territorial government awarded the council a $619,000 contract to operate the shelter for two years, with an option for a three-year extension, Health Minister Glen Abernethy announced last week.
The shelter “demonstrates our society’s commitment to care about everyone,” Abernethy said in announcing the contract. “It is a moral obligation for government to find ways to support clients that live in difficult circumstances.”
The contract has $100,000 more per year to work with than the John Howard Society had when it ran the Dene Ko shelter that closed last May. The city has promised the new shelter an additional $50,000 a year.
Rent on the three-storey building at 5023-49th Street will consume $64,800 a year. The building, which now serves as an office for a construction company, needs renovations, including the addition of a wheelchair ramp and removing walls to open up the main floor.
Les Harrison, CEO at Yellowknife Health and Social Services, said the downtown location is convenient for the homeless who use the nearby Salvation Army and other service agencies.
The immediate proximity of the downtown liquor outlet won’t add to the difficulty of providing services to people who have issues with substance abuse, he said.
“We will be there for them when they need us,” Harrison said.
Denise McKee, the Disabilities Council’s executive director, said those who worked at Dene Ko are being recruited for the new shelter, but some have moved on to other jobs, “so we’re advertising positions.”
The proximity of the liquor store won’t be allowed to interfere with the work of addressing “issues faced by individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and related issues,” McKee said.
“We have zero tolerance when it comes to alcohol in the shelter, not just for our sake, but for the clients as well,” she said. “They want a safe respectful shelter that’s free of violence and alcohol.”