As gov't contract nears end, Whitehorse's 'Housing First' Project management hope for renewal

It's been almost a year since the Yukon government handed over operations of their 'Yukon First' project. Located on Fifth Avenue and Wood Street in Whitehorse, the facility is now managed by the Council of Yukon First Nations and B.C based company Connective.

Almost a year under new management, the Council of Yukon First Nations says it's a 'success story'

The Yukon government's housing first project is nearing completion in downtown Whitehorse. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

It's been almost a year since the Yukon government handed over operations of it's 'Yukon First' project.

The 16 unit building is located on Fifth Avenue and Wood Street in Whitehorse's downtown core. It provides supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness.

The Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) and a Vancouver-based organization called Connective have been managing the support services offered at the facility.

Shadelle Chambers is the executive director with CYFN. She said it's been a great collaboration so far.

"It's been an opportunity at frontline to learn about the further needs of the 'Housing First' residents and also in terms of our partnership with Connective," Chambers said.

"We're learning more about how to work together and some of our internal processes, so thus far I believe it's been quite successful for us as operators but also to meet the needs of residents."

Connective is an organization which focuses on implementing inclusive, person-centered, collaborative, determined, and accountable approaches in areas including housing support, justice and community services.

CEO of Connective Mark Miller said when taking the facility from the Yukon government it was important for him that residents weren't impacted during the transition.

"Part of assuming operations was trying to go in and learn the support services that were being offered," Miller said.

"We were able to create relationships with residents and build on what was happening. Connective would not of been able to do that without partnering with CYFN so we're really thankful for that."

Offering culturally relevant supports

The services that were offered under the Yukon government's management continue to be available to residents.

The services include access to government health and social services, and access to the mental wellness referred care clinic. Local organizations such as Blood Ties Four Directions, who offer support programs within the facility also continue to provide supports.

One area of programming that both CYFN and Connective have built on is the cultural component.

"That's really one of the key elements of our partnership," Chambers shared.

"CYFN has been able to ensure that there's culturally appropriate and culturally relevant programming for the residents being offered."

Shadelle Chambers, executive director of the Council of Yukon First Nations. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

Chambers went on to outline what that entails.

"We ensure that there are cultural support workers there attending regularly and available for residents. We have traditional food being offered once a week and a variety of different programming. Arts and traditional activities are occurring on a weekly and monthly basis."

Residents are not required to participate or attend any programming, however Chambers said according to staff updates most of the residents are taking advantage of the in-house supports.

One year contract

CYFN and Connective are operating the facility on a year contract, which ends in April.

Miller told CBC News that once the contract is up, a review will be done by the Yukon government to determine whether or not the contract will be renewed.

"There will be a process we go through with the Yukon government," he said." A review process and hopefully a renewal of that contract and we can move forward from there."

At this point, both Miller and Chambers agree that this past year has been a great opportunity to serve the community.

"Finding ways to work with different communities to create a safer place and a better future," Miller said." I think it is just something that I'm personally passionate about and our organization believes in making that difference."

Chambers added the collaboration has been critical to the success.

"You know I think our partnership with Connective in administering and managing the Housing First residence has been a great success story in how levels of government and NGO's and community can come together to ensure essential social supports are provided to the community," Chambers said.