Aspen centre, temporary isolation hub in Yellowknife, set to close

"Aspen served its purpose well," says Sue Cullen, but the N.W.T. Health and Social Services Authority no longer needs a dedicated place for people experiencing homelessness and awaiting COVID-19 test results. They'll now go to hotels.

The centre was opened in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic

The Aspen Apartments on Yellowknife's 51st Street were converted into temporary housing where people experiencing homeless could self-isolate if awaiting a COVID-19 test. It received little use. (Hilary Bird/CBC)

The Aspen Apartments in Yellowknife is set to close.

The centre is a residential apartment complex just outside of Yellowknife's downtown core. It opened in March 2020  for use as a temporary isolation hub for those experiencing homelessness.

The centre includes 36 units and was meant for people without housing security to self-isolate while awaiting a COVID-19 test or after receiving a positive tests. The building is on a temporary lease from the federal government and was acquired specifically to help address the pandemic. 

But according to a release issued by the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority on Thursday, no one is currently living at the residence. Usage overall has been intermittent, with three clients staying there in March, nine in February and three in January .

The social services authority says it will now use isolation hotels for the same purpose. 

"Continued supports for homeless individuals are important and we will continue to support these individuals in their isolation needs," said Sue Cullen, chief executive office of the authority, in a statement.

"Aspen served its purpose well; however transitioning to support through the isolation centres will allow for the best use of health and social services system resources and reduce duplication of services and effort."

The release says in nearly all cases, those who are referred to medically-advised isolation and who would have accessed Aspen are given a rapid test, meaning they'd often only spend one night or would be able to leave the same day with a negative result.

Aspen staff will help with transitioning clients. The referral process for accessing Aspen for providers and clients will not change immediately.

With files from Katie Toth


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