A new day shelter for Yellowknife's homeless has officially opened.

About 100 sponsors, clients and staff attended an open house Thursday night at the 51st Street shelter, which actually began operating last week.

Operating when overnight shelters are closed, the day shelter offers an alternative to shopping malls and other public buildings, where many homeless men and women go to stay warm during the day.

James Gordon, who is looking for work, said he has used the shelter in the mornings for "coming out of the cold, coming in to warm up, have a cup of coffee, meet the guys, talk."

The John Howard Society is running the day shelter as part of a pilot project. The shelter's usage and capabilities will be reviewed after three years.

The N.W.T. Health and Social Services Department, the City of Yellowknife and diamond miner BHP Billiton are contributing a total of $550,000 to the facility over the three-year period.

"It's been a good-news project from the beginning. It's had a lot of good support," Health Minister Sandy Lee said at Thursday's open house.

"Most importantly, this is what was needed, and it's being well used already and being really well run. So I'm just really, really excited to see this happen, and it's something we need to do more of."

Lee said the territorial government will consider opening similar day shelters in other communities.