Accommodation at the Yellowknife women's shelter expands for 8

Yellowknife Women's Centre has eight new housing units in the basement of the women's shelter, and it's already full.

'It's one of the best areas that we put our money into at this time,' says Housing Minister Caroline Cochrane

Susie Komak, second from the left, is one of the eight tenants that will rent units from the Yellowknife Women's Shelter. She's standing with Bree Denning, executive director of Yellowknife Women's Society, far left; Caroline Cochrane, minister responsible for housing and homelessness, second from the right; and Cindy Ring, regional coordinator, far right. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

The Yellowknife Women's Society is celebrating eight new rooms for single, homeless women in the city, reducing overcrowding at the women's emergency shelter. 

By grand opening Wednesday, all units were spoken for, with a growing waiting list. 

"It has been a very, very busy year and a half," said Bree Denning, executive director of the Women's Society. The Society received funding from the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

The project cost $460,000, according to Caroline Cochrane, minister responsible for housing in the Northwest Territories.

"Which is actually very small when you consider that eight women will be housed," she said.

  The units are semi-independent and are located in the basement of the Yellowknife Women's Centre, downstairs from the women's emergency shelter. The eight rooms share the space with a communal living room and kitchen.
Inside one of the rooms. The new units are located in the basement of the women's shelter. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

"For a very long time, the emergency shelter acted as a shelter, but also as a permanent house for folks that just needed a bit of support to move on," said Denning. 

The aim is to give women more independence, dignity and privacy in these new units while "getting them up on their feet" Denning said.

Women were selected based on how long they've been at the emergency shelter, with those who had been there longer  given priority. 

The main requirement is that the women make rent every month; either $900 of their income support cheque, or 30 per cent of their income if they are employed. They can stay for as long as they need, Denning said.

The new housing includes a communal living room, kitchen, and eight separate bedrooms. (CBC)

The women are free to go upstairs and access shelter resources, including a cafeteria and a staff member available to teach life skills, like budgeting and cooking.

"These women — eight women — will now have a home for Christmas and that's the most exciting gift that I could give to anyone," said Cochrane. 

"It's one of the best areas that we put our money into at this time."

The last of the women moved in Wednesday.

Just a start, says executive director

But this is just a step toward addressing homelessness in the city, said Denning.

"Unfortunately homelessness is an ongoing problem," Denning said. "It's a start but we have to keep working."

Minister Cochrane agreed, saying: "We still have a long way to go."

She's hoping similar housing units at the Yellowknife Salvation Army will be next.

With files from Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi