Yukon non-profit describes dream project: 60 units of supportive housing

A Yukon non-profit is appealing to territorial election candidates, by publishing plans for a dream project. Challenge Resource Disability Group wants to replace its aging office with a new building that would include 60 units of supportive housing.

Challenge Disability Resource Group publishes plans online, hoping to pressure election candidates

Jillian Hardie and Mark Browning, of the Challenge Disability Resource Group, in front of the building they've occupied since the 1980s. The group wants to replace it with a 6-storey complex containing offices and supportive housing. 'Whitehorse is in crucial need of supportive, affordable housing for people with disabilities,' Hardie said. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

A Yukon non-profit is appealing to potential MLAs, as the territorial election campaign gets underway. 

Challenge Disability Resource Group wants to replace its aging Whitehorse office with a new building that would include 60 units of supportive housing. 

The organization has already published architectural plans on its Facebook page.

"We thought we'd put it out there and show people what the project is all about," said board member Mark Browning. 

Challenge Disability Resource Group has occupied the same building on Front Street in Whitehorse since the 1980s. Now that building, a former mechanics shop, is getting too old. 

The group hopes that whichever party forms the next Yukon government will agree to back the project inspired by its drawing. 

"Our building is at the end of its life," Browning said. "Either [we] have to rebuild, relocate, sell our property, or do something. We have this shovel-ready building [plan] and we think this is the time to do it," he said.

An illustration of Challenge's proposed new headquarters. 'We thought we'd put it out there and show people what the project is all about,' said board member Mark Browning. (Kobayashi + Zedda architects)

Looking for support

The building would incorporate supportive housing, Challenge's offices, and also a new version of the "Challenge Café," where the organization provides job training and coaching for people with disabilities. 

Browning says a design for a four-storey model was first drawn in 2012.

He says the group's proposal was discussed with the Yukon government and First Nations at that time but ultimately was not approved.

He hopes that publishing a drawing of a larger six-storey project will inspire some voters to make it an election campaign issue.

"We'll see if we can see a little support, as far as people asking their candidates if they're behind this project," he said.

'Dire need' says homeless advocate

According to Jillian Hardie, executive director for Challenge Disability Resource Group, "Whitehorse is in crucial need of supportive, affordable housing for people with disabilities and barriers in life." 

She says the proposed new building would complement Yukon's new Salvation Army shelter, and the Sarah Steele detox centre, in offering people transitional housing and support.

A new $18 million detox centre in Whitehorse opened in September. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Hardie says it would also reduce government spending on long-term hotel stays. Many of Challenge's clients are placed in downtown hotels. 

"60 units would fill up very, very quickly. If we look at the Point-in-Time survey, that was done this past year, there were 246 people that were identified as homeless [in Whitehorse]. We recognize that there are a lot of people who are homeless, and are needing safe places," she said. 

No budget for project yet 

The new building would surely cost millions. Yukon's new detox centre had a budget of $18 million, and the new Salvation Army shelter has a budget of $10.2 million. 

Browning says the previous four-storey model proposed by Challenge was valued around $11 million, but he doesn't know how much the expanded six-storey plans would cost to build.

"We're hoping people will educate themselves on the project and the benefits it will give to the community. And maybe take these pledge forms and ask their candidates to sign and say they'd get behind a project like this,' he said.

"Not commit them to anything monetarily — we can work those details out later on. Just that they're supporting the project in principle." 


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