Hopes Haven, transition home for homeless youth, opens in Yellowknife

A group in Yellowknife are putting the 'housing first' principle into action with their new transition home for youth: Hopes Haven. 'If we have the housing, then youth are more inclined to work on the problems and actually the underlying issues of what's causing the homelessness.'

Tenants at the youth transition shelter will pay rent and work on life skills, big and small

Iris Hamlyn is welcoming young people to Hopes Haven, the city's first transition shelter for youth aged 16 to 24. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

For the past 10 years, Yellowknife's SideDoor Youth Ministries have offered emergency shelter for homeless young people. Last year, 119 different young people used the service.

But the group's executive director, Iris Hamlyn, says that system forced them to "discharge them back to homelessness every day."

Hopes Haven is in a former Aurora Village building in downtown Yellowknife. (Randall Mckenzie/CBC)
The organization's new transition home for youth — the city's first — is more than just a place to sleep. It also has programs and services designed to get young people back on their feet and out of homelessness.

"The reality if you are living on the street and 8 a.m. every morning you have no place to go for the whole day, it's really difficult to work on your concerns," Hamlyn says. "But if we provide housing first, we have the housing, then youth are more inclined to work on the problems and actually the underlying issues of what's causing the homelessness."

To that end, every young person who uses the service is assigned a "navigator," a staff member who will work with them to reach their goals, big and small. 

"It could be them just getting up the morning," Hamlyn says, "but it's progressive.

"So when they move out of here they have the skills to pay rent, have a bank account, have a job and some work experience and get help for their mental health and addictions."

Skills that she says many of her clients didn't receive while they were in foster care or otherwise involved with social services.

10 tenants, 16-24

The home is a big change for Francis Himiak, 21, one of the first tenants.

Tenants will pay rent and work on life goals. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)
He moved to Yellowknife seven months ago and ended up on the streets when he couldn't find a job.

"Running around for 12 hours a day can be very stressful when you don't find work for quite a while," Himiak says.

Like all tenants, Himiak will pay rent — though it's still not clear what the cost will be — as he works on his GED and launching a career in carpentry.

Hopes Haven has 10 beds for emergency drop-ins and 10 rooms for tenants, who will have their own rooms, shared bathrooms, a common room and a kitchen. It's designed for youth aged 16 to 24.

There is no timeline for how long youth can stay there. The only condition is that they have to work on their issues, whether it be addictions, counselling for trauma, finishing their education and developing skills so they can succeed on their own.

Hopes Haven is located in the old Aurora Village building in the city's downtown.

The SideDoor is working to raise $600,000 to pay off the mortgage.

Hopes Haven isn't the final step. The SideDoor is launching a plan to end youth homelessness in January.


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