North

For Yellowknife's homeless, an uneasy relationship with city

CBC North, along with True North Rotary, is hosting a "Friendship Breakfast" Tuesday in Yellowknife's Somba K'e Park from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

'Just treat us like we're human beings'

Realtions between homeless Yellowknifers and other residents have been tense at times. (CBC)

Many of Yellowknife's homeless come from the N.W.T.'s smaller communities. Nolleen Lennie is one of them.

Lennie is originally from Tulita but has been in Yellowknife for 15 years. So has her sister, Sandy MacCauley, who came to the capital for medical treatment and never left.

"I have been living on the streets since I was 16," Lennie says. "I have been in and out of group homes and institutions."​

Both sisters suffer from alcoholism, and neither like the looks they get from people working downtown. 

"They just think you are just an alcoholic, just a street person, [and it] makes me more depressed," Lennie says.

Lennie wants a job. Any job. But she says no one will give her a chance.

Crossing paths

Many Yellowknifers cross paths with the homeless every day.

"I usually say hi to them, if they go beyond that then I know they are going to ask me for money," says Stuart Hogg, who works in the city. "Then I'll start walking."

Marisa Ziyapapa works in downtown Yellowknife. He's originally from Zimbabwe and says he's shocked by the amount of homeless in the community.​ 

"I didn't understand this could happen in a developed country."

But Ziyapapa says he understands that many people in Yellowknife have had negative, sometimes violent experiences with the homeless.

Last year, benches were removed from in front of the post office, in the hope that street people would congregate somewhere else — away from the busy entrance.

Breaking bread

Hayley Tait, 15, wants Yellowknifers to be more compassionate. "It's not an easy thing to do, but everyone should have that in their hearts, because they are all people, we are all the same," she says.

CBC North, along with True North Rotary, is hosting a "Friendship Breakfast" Tuesday in Yellowknife's Somba K'e Park from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

It's an opportunity for Yellowknifers to break bread with and better understand each other. 

Nolleen Lennie's request to her fellow Yellowknifers is a simple one: "Just treat us like we are human beings."