North

Building issues, landlord reluctance delay Yellowknife sobering centre

The N.W.T.'s minister of Health and Social Services says his department is having an "incredibly hard time" finding a location for a sobering centre in downtown Yellowknife.

N.W.T. government widens search area for place where homeless intoxicated people can sober up

N.W.T. Health Minister Glen Abernethy says 12 downtown Yellowknife properties had to be rejected as the site for a sobering centre for various reasons. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

The N.W.T.'s minister of Health and Social Services says his department is having an "incredibly hard time" finding a location for a sobering centre in downtown Yellowknife.

The government wants to relocate its day shelter and combine it with a sobering centre. The 2017-2018 budget set aside $520,000 for the centre, plus another $230,000 to keep the shelter open 12 hours a day. 

"I think we have looked at as many as 12 properties, and all of them had to be rejected for one reason or another," said Minister Glen Abernethy.

The sobering centre would be a place where intoxicated homeless people can go to sober up, rather than wandering the streets or being taken to jail.

Yellowknife's homeless day shelter, which the N.W.T. government is considering combining with a sobering centre, is currently located at the corner of 49 Street and 51 Avenue. (CBC)

"Some of them were space issues. Others were landlords weren't prepared to rent for this purpose. Some of them had other structural issues that we couldn't deal with."

He added the government is considering a location outside the downtown core "until we can find a more permanent location in the downtown core."

"It is taking way longer than we anticipated," he said of the search. 

Two locations may be needed 

Abernethy's update in the legislative assembly Tuesday came after Yellowknife MLA Cory Vanthuyne asked him to address the concerns of a downtown mall owner. The owner is calling for the government to deal with a homeless crisis that's created a "war zone" at his business.

Abernethy said the government may have to consider two separate locations for the day shelter and sobering centre in order to expedite the process.

The government has also expressed interest in launching a managed alcohol centre in the city, though no money has been budgeted toward that.

Abernethy said the sobering centre could be an ideal location for that program.

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Guy Quenneville

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