Tuesday October 13 2015 11 POLITICS HOMELESSNESS By CRAIG GILBERT Hopes Haven is not the end of the rain- bow but it now covers more of the spectrum of homelessness among youth in Yellowknife. In June SideDoor Ministries added 12 tran- sitional housing spaces to the 10-bed emer- gency overnight shelter it had been running for for teens 16-19 years-old for the past de- cade. Building on the age limit increase to 24 the centre adopted when Iris Hamlyn became executive director the home now covers more of the housing spectrum for young people by offering around-the-clock shelter. Hamlyn said the increased age limit is why usage of the shelter seemed to skyrocket from 67 different individuals having accessed it at least once in 2013 to 119 last year. Hopes Haven is not the entire solution but aims to be a big part of it. This is transitional meant to bridge the gap between youth transitioning out of care which is our focus to youth independence Hamlyn said. Hopes Haven is one of the initiatives along the continuum of homeless- ness but its not the only thing were going to do.Thats really important to know theres the emergencysheltertherestransitionalhousing but our goal is permanent housing for youth. The supports at Hopes Haven include help with financial literacy learning how to cook and take care of their bedroom and learn- ing how to live with other people particularly with the on-site three-bedroom apartment. When youth get to a stage where theyre almost ready to move out the reality in Yel- lowknife especially is they will probably be renting with somebody else Hamlyn said. Were not emulating the real world if we just keep everyone separate. Issues related to youth homelessness have to be approached differently than they are with adults so the transitional housing comes with a voluntary support program geared to young people. Adhering to housing first principles the offer of shelter has no time limit but it is dependant on the young person setting goals and achieving them. Within the first two years of being touched by homelessness we can actually reverse the cycle of becoming entrenched in homeless- nessHamlynsaid.Thatsouremphasis.They do still have those options adult shelters but they choose to go to a youth facility. Hopes Haven does not set the goals but supports the youth in working toward them. So for example they want to work on their addictions Hamlyn explained. If they de- cide to go to addictions counselling then they decide to stop we realign and reassess and say are you discharging yourself from the program Largely because of the couch-surfing phe- nomenon homelessness among youth is difficult to quantify hard to track and per- ceived as less of a problem than it is. Oftentimespeoplesaytheresnoproblemwith youthhomelessnessbecausewedontseethem hangingoutatthepostofficeshesaid.Butthe youthareamongthehiddenhomelessorcouch surfers. I took on the mantra when presenting thattothecityandthefundersthatjustbecause youdontseeyouthhomelessnessdoesntmean its not happening in your community. Sinceopeningearlierthisyeartheshelterhas seen higher-than-expected interest from girls andyoungwomen.Thegreatestneedforhous- ing support is among 19-24 year-olds which is why the age limit was increased from 19 to 24 in 2014 but as the centres reputation for safety spread more females appeared. People couch surfing are more vulnerable to violence and exploitation than the gen- eral population. Were getting an influx of females so weve had to shift from having the males on one floor and the females on another to having a coed facility Hamlyn said. Thats added to our security responsibilities having to pro- tect that but in the real world if they were not in our building and they were renting an apartment the reality is living next door to someone. So its a bit of a learning process. Yellowknife is one of two Canadian cities selected to help write a report expected in January for the Canadian Housing and Re- newal Associations Mobilizing Local Capac- ity to End Youth Homelessness Program. Were the only emergency shelter in two territories and this is the first time weve ever done transitional housing Hamlyn said. Its not just about massaging or reducing home- lessness but preventing and ending it. Teen shelter extends reach to citys hidden homeless Transitional housing for youth could be model for all territories By CRAIG GILBERT Yellowknife Mayor Mark Heyck has an on- the-ground kind of plan to get more people off the street that he hopes has enough mo- mentum to roll through this months mu- nicipal election. Heyck provided an update to the social ser- vices envelope of the GNWT cabinet includ- ing Deputy Premier Jackson Lafferty Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy Minister responsible for municipal affairs and the Northwest Territories Housing Cor- poration Robert C. McLeod and Minister of Justice David Ramsay on Sept. 28. Heyck who is seeking reelection on Oct. 19 said he has been working on issues related to homelessness since his time as a councillor. He started doing groundwork on the idea of a focused task force with a finite deadline aimed at reducing homelessness in the city in earnest several months ago. The meeting was an opportunity to speak with the ministers and their senior staff about the concept I have been discussing for the last year or so. LastSeptemberBettyHousewhichprovides transitionalhousingforwomenwasreopened as Lynn Brooks Safe Place for Women and a year later almost to the day the opening of new transitional housing for teens and young adults at Hopes Haven run by Side Door Min- istries was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting see related story above. Still the need is incredibly great out there Heyck said. The resources unfortunately are not yet being put to truly addressing that. Anumberofpeopleequaltofivepercentofthe populationaccessedashelterbedinYellowknife in2009comparedto1.4percentinCalgary1.1 per cent in Toronto and 0.5 per cent in Halifax. The same 2011 report written for the Cana- dianHomelessnessResearchNetworkPressby thedirectorofresearchanddataattheCalgary HomelessFoundationNickFalvonotesthaton asummernightasmanyas50peoplearestay- ing in tent camps aroundoutside the city and as many as half of the 15 people in Yellowknife RCMPcustodyonanaveragenightwouldlikely otherwise be staying in an emergency shelter. Couch-surfing which is particularly preva- lentamongyoungerunder-housedpeoplealso makes tracking homelessness more difficult. Theresagrowingconcerninthecommunity that homeless mental health and addictions issues in Yellowknife are not only not getting better or even staying the same quite frankly theyre getting worse Heyck said. You have a lot of good people doing a lot of good work but what were doing doesnt seem to be work- ing as well as it should be. There are going to havetobesomedifficultconversationsIthink because part of this revolves around under- standing where weve failedbut Ithinktheres a willingness right now amongst people who are working on these issues to come together to finally make some progress. He said the effort needs at once to be more focusedwithaspecifictimeframeandmoreho- listicwithanapproachthatconsidersissuesre- latedtohousingmentalhealthandaddictions. If the right solution can be found it could be more about moving resources around than finding new money or waiting for whichever party wins the federal election to decide to chip in with their first budget. The drain on resources is already enormous Heyck said considering the cost to the justice system in- cluding the RCMP and the citys fire depart- ment which runs the ambulance service. Yellowknifes downtown homeless popula- tion accounts for the majority of the ER vis- its to Stantonand most of those visits stem from drug or alcohol problems according to Dr. David Pontin an emergency room physi- cian at Stanton Territorial Hospital. One of the challenges Ive seen with the othercoalitionsworkingontheseissuesisthat they tend to go on forever essentially Heyck said. If this concept were to proceed it would be on a very strict time limit say 150 days at which time it would be expected to produce a report with recommendations that would go back to various governments and agencies. McLeodsaidtheissueismulti-facetedandaf- fects a number of services looked after by other ministries particularly Health. Its a cross-departmental issue and we all have to be on the same page on this one and I think everyone is. McLeod is also responsible for the NWT HousingCorporationwhichrunsallaffordable housing programs in the NWT and manages about 2400 public housing units through 23 local housing organizations LHOs. That or- ganizations major concern is the constant re- ductioninfundingfromtheCanadaMortgage andHousingCorporationwhichwasabout25 millionin2011-12andwilldroptozeroby2038. We felt the pressure right away because were a smaller jurisdiction he said. A larger jurisdiction like Ontario or Quebec theyre starting to feel the pressure right now. Weve been trying to engage the federal government to see if there is some way we can keep that CMHC money going to help with the social housing. We are challenged in that regard but were working our way through it. With a municipal vote on Oct. 19 creating the task force quickly becomes the project of the next mayor. Heyck has one challenger John Himmelman and told the Journal he intends to implement the idea if re-elected and would be willing to help even if he doesnt win a second term. One of the beautiful things about Yellow- knife and the North in general is that were small enough that we should be able to come togethertofindsolutionshesaid.Morethan anythingitsabouthelpingthoseinourcitywho are most vulnerable who are truly suffering on a day-to-day basis because were not doing things as effectively orefficiently as we could. Yellowknife mayor pushes 150-day homelessness plan POLITICS HOMELESSNESS PhotoMicheleTaylor SideDoor Ministries opened Hopes Haven transitional housing for youth in downtown Yellowknife earlier this year. They celebrated a grand opening at the end of September.