Heated debate over location of shelters hits Yellowknife City Hall


A debate on the location of a temporary day shelter in downtown Yellowknife takes place Monday at City Hall.

Councilors are expected to discuss the territorial government’s plans for 4709 Franklin Avenue at a meeting of the governance and priorities committee, two weeks after Health Minister Julie Green published an open letter ask Yellowknife to support the site.

Her advocacy prompted businesses and residents to write a flurry of letters themselves – many expressing frustration and calling for compassion.

Now the city’s politicians will try to find a way through the fervor as they consider a memo to the meeting agenda this sheds more light on the territorial government’s intention for the building, which was recently used by Aurora Village.

If approved, the day shelter is expected to operate until Oct.31, 2024, while the territory’s health and social services department will establish a new permanent day shelter and sobering up center on 51st Street, according to Note.

A report sent to city hall says that if approved, the day shelter would operate until fall 2024 and would be open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (Graham Shishkov / CBC)

The refuge would be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily, with a capacity of around 50 people inside. It would complement the existing day shelter and sobering-up center on 50th Street.

The facility would provide its visitors with food, entertainment, restrooms and a safe place to rest and warm up, as well as “entry-level case management,” the note said. Staff would be trained in de-escalation tactics and trauma-informed approaches, and would also patrol the area and adjacent buildings on an hourly basis.

The shelter is considered a special care facility and is therefore a conditionally licensed use of downtown Yellowknife, but municipal staff recommended adding certain conditions to the permit. In the memo, they suggest that a review take place more than 90 days before the license expires, to see if an extension is needed and to allow the public to vote on whether to grant one.

Staff also recommend installing a wheelchair ramp by November 15, 2021.

Since the shelter would be temporary, the memo says the city can revoke the permit at any time if it is considered “harmful” to the area, and may also adjust the length of the permit.

Business outcry

In a letter to Green on Thursday, the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce said it was “disappointed and frustrated” by the open letter the Minister of Health released on September 13.

“Your language makes it clear that you intend to vilify any opposition to your decision,” said Tim Syer, president of the chamber and Deneen Everett, its executive director. “Business owners have valid objections to your decision and they deserve to be heard; that’s why the appeal process exists. “

Tim Syer, president of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, said the organization was “disappointed and frustrated” by the language of Green’s September 13 letter. (Kent Kallberg)

Green’s letter, which called on Yellowknife to support the location of the daytime shelter, said an appeal would delay the opening of the shelter by 90 days, meaning its essential services for those under-housed would only be available well. before winter.

The chamber goes on to say that businesses in Yellowknife deserve better communication, while the homeless deserve attention and a solution that meets their needs.

Another letter, written by Geoff Morrison, director of the Aurora Emporium Art Gallery, was addressed directly to Premier Caroline Cochrane and referred to 4709 Franklin Ave. of “surprisingly poor” location for a shelter.

The gallery is located inside a neighboring building, which it shares with the Discovery Inn, Red Apple Restaurant, and Yellowknife Vineyard Church.

“We have on several occasions had international tourists seeking refuge at our business, having been accosted off the premises after the day shelters closed,” Morrison wrote. “The public would be better served by leaving the temporary shelter of the local arena,” he said, away from access to drugs and alcohol.

The Aurora Emporium Art Gallery is one of many companies that have sent letters to City Hall denouncing the territory’s intention to transform 4709 Franklin Ave. neighbor in a temporary shelter until fall 2024. (Liny Lamberink / CBC)

Several letters criticized the territorial government for not consulting with businesses first and highlighted the struggle many people face amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Restaurants, cafes and gyms are struggling to cover their expenses, let alone operate profitably,” wrote Norma Nelson, owner of Break Away Fitness, which is around the corner from the proposed location. “Now with the proposed day shelter next to businesses, the situation will get worse and extremely difficult for some of us to survive.”

Business arguments based on ignorance, say some locals

A letter written by a group of affected residents who support a downtown day shelter, however, said the argument that a shelter would be bad for business “is based on ignorance and prejudice.”

“Evidence shows that emergency day shelters are an essential component of a ‘well-functioning system of care’ that tackles homelessness and provides a gateway to permanent housing and essential services,” said declared the group.

Their letter stated that a temporary day shelter is the “bare minimum of care that must be provided” and implored businesses “to be leaders in speaking out against the stigma and systemic racism that harm our citizens of the country. Street “.

He pointed out that at least 90 percent of the more than 300 people living on the streets in Yellowknife are Dene, Inuit and / or Métis, and most are affected by the intergenerational trauma of residential schools.

The letter said its signatories would establish a list of businesses that support a downtown shelter and pledge to support them.

“Additionally, we can choose to avoid companies that actively hinder this safe haven.”

On Sunday afternoon, an online version was signed by 37 people.


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