North

N.W.T. gov't uses Emergency Measures Act to establish temporary shelter in Yellowknife

The N.W.T. government is acquiring the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre on 51st Street to establish a temporary shelter for the homeless until the Salvation Army can reopen its doors.

Territory acquires Tree of Peace Friendship Centre to establish shelter until Salvation Army can reopen

The Tree of Peace Friendship Centre in Yellowknife has been acquired under the Emergency Measures Act to accommodate those displaced by flooding at the Salvation Army building. (Melinda Trochu/CBC)

The N.W.T. government is acquiring the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre on 51st Street to establish a temporary shelter until the Salvation Army can reopen its doors.

In a Thursday night news release, the government said Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs Paulie Chinna was invoking the Emergency Measures Act, which allows the minister "to acquire public or private property to alleviate the emergency."

The act was first used to establish a temporary day shelter in Yellowknife. A government spokesperson said the Tree of Peace started accommodating residents on Thursday night.

The Salvation Army's downtown shelter was flooded last Sunday morning after the building's fire suppression system sprung a leak on the building's fourth floor, causing damage to all four stories, according to Jason Brinson, the Salvation Army's local executive director.

"I saw lots of water coming down [Sunday morning]," Brinson said.

"It wasn't a pleasant sight and the first thing that comes to mind is, where are we going to put all of those we serve?"

People were quickly evacuated from the building and the Salvation Army has been closed to its clients since. 

"We're very fortunate that everyone got out of the building. There was no fire, but still, water was coming in there pretty quickly and they got out of the building."

Unclear when people will be allowed back

It's unclear how much the repairs will cost, said Brinson. The Toronto office handles that sort of thing, but "it will be significant."

It's also unclear when people will be allowed back into the building. Brinson said he hopes some areas can be safely occupied while construction is still going on. 

So far, the Salvation Army has been able to find overnight shelter for everyone who needs it, but alternative shelter locations haven't been consistent, said Brinson in an interview prior to the announcement of acquisition of the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre.  

In his interview, Brinson said he wasn't sure where people would be staying Thursday evening. The news release from the government did not say when the friendship centre would begin taking people in.

Brinson commended Salvation Army's leadership team and front-line staff for being "just fantastic at keeping things going, getting people settled as best they can."

The city, he said, provided cots. 

"We just want to make sure that [clients] are protected. That's our main objective," said Brinson.

"A building can be fixed, but we want to ensure that people are safe."

The Bailey House, transitional housing run by the Salvation Army, and the thrift store were not affected by the flooding.

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