North

New homeless shelter to open in Whitehorse this summer

The Yukon government plans to convert a building in downtown Whitehorse into a new homeless shelter. It's looking for a non-profit organization to operate the facility.

Yukon group says shelter is needed, but affordable housing is still an issue

The Yukon government is looking for a non-profit to run a new homeless shelter it plans to open in July 2015. The building is on Fourth Avenue in downtown Whitehorse. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

The Yukon government plans to convert a building in downtown Whitehorse into a new homeless shelter.

It issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a non-profit organization to operate the facility and says the suites should be ready by the end of the summer.

It would be great to build some permanent housing, but this is a start.-Charlotte Hrenchuk, Yukon Status of Women Council

According to the RFP, the shelter will serve as transitional housing for people with mental health issues. It’s expected that the building, which has five units, could house up to eight people at a time, providing them with 24-hour care and support.

“There’s a huge need,” says Leslie Robert with the Second Opinion Society, a Whitehorse advocacy group for people with mental health challenges.

“If people are extremely agitated and dealing with a lot of stress, certainly being in contact with a worker every day helps them to calm down and deal with practical things”.

The facility’s aim will be to help clients overcome mental challenges and develop life skills to become more independent. Residents could stay for periods between six months and two years, depending on their needs and progress. Referrals would come from the Whitehorse General Hospital, the Department of Health and Social Services or community-based organizations.

The government is retrofitting a building at 4050 4th Avenue for the shelter. The building used to be operated by Options for Independence as an assisted-living facility for adults with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. That organization has now moved into a larger facility down the street.

Lack of transition and affordable housing 

Charlotte Hrenchuk of the Yukon Status of Women Council says the lack of affordable housing in Yukon is a big issue. (CBC)
“It’s a start,” says Charlotte Hrenchuk, co-ordinator at the Yukon Status of Women Council, about the new shelter. “This fills one gap, but there are still many gaps.”

Hrenchuk points to the need for transitional housing for women leaving jail. The Yukon Adult Resource Centre, operated by the Salvation Army, provides that service for men but no similar facility exists in Yukon for women.

Hrenchuk says there’s another larger problem - a lack of affordable housing in Yukon. The new shelter is aimed at helping homeless people make the transition to independent living. That’s tough if vacancy is low and rent is unaffordable.

“The market is what it is,” she says. “It would be great to build some permanent housing, but this is a start.”

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