Doors open to new, private rooms at Yellowknife Women's Centre shelter

A $1 million renovation turned four dorm-style rooms with bunk beds into 16 private rooms for women who rely on transitional housing.

$1M renovation turned four dorm-style rooms into 16 private rooms for women

A welcome home dinner of stew and bannock was served to residents of the newly renovated Yellowknife Women’s Centre when they moved in to the updated facility on Dec. 19. (Submitted by De Beers)

Christmas arrived early for 16 women at the Yellowknife Women's Centre shelter. 

A $1 million renovation turned four dorm-style rooms with bunk beds into 16 private rooms for women who rely on transitional housing. The new rooms offer women privacy, independence and a place to retreat if people aren't getting along. 

"This is usually a really emotional time of year for a lot of our residents away from family," said shelter director Margaret Beauchamp. "That has been minimal. It's amazing the change. And they're proud. They're proud of their home, their space."

The women began moving in last Thursday. 

In addition to new private rooms, the renovation included a full kitchen makeover with six giant new fridges, new cupboards and counters and a new stove. Two old dining tables have been replaced with four pushed together, which also serve as a sewing space. 

A brand-new washroom includes private stalls and a wheelchair-accessible shower. 

Bree Denning, executive director of the Yellowknife Women’s Society, stands in the kitchen. The renovation included new kitchen cabinets and counters. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

The Yellowknife Women's Centre now has two washers and dryers for laundry from residents and others who need the service. 

The move-in isn't quite complete. Two clinic rooms for visiting doctors and nurses still need to be unpacked. Those rooms include sinks, at the request of the physicians, as well as medical supplies. 

No one turned away

The centre still has several plush leather couches and a pile of floor mats handy. 

"We don't turn anyone away, of course," said Beauchamp. 

Those couches, however, will soon be replaced by armchairs that can fold out into beds. 

In addition to the 16 transitional rooms, the Yellowknife Women's Centre also has eight supported living rooms that women can rent, as well as private housing options through the Housing First program.

A full pantry is ready for Christmas at the Yellowknife Women's Centre. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

"The idea is that no one has to return to homelessness," said Bree Denning, executive director of the Yellowknife Women's Society, which runs the Centre. 

$1M collaboration

The AngloAmerican Foundation provided $250,000 for the renovation and the N.W.T. Housing Corporation kicked in $750,000. The Gahcho Kué mine (owned by De Beers and Mountain Province Diamonds) provided a project manager, valued at $60,000. 

Shelter director Margaret Beauchamp, Yellowknife Women's Society executive director Bree Denning and Gahcho Kué Mine general manager Lyndon Clark. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

"We're always sort of looking for ways to give back to the community and provide long-term things that will provide sustainable benefits," said Gahcho Kué Mine general manager Lyndon Clark. 

The project, he said, was a good fit with De Beers's Making Life Brilliant strategy, one pillar of which is "standing with women and girls." 

"It all really tied into what we're trying to do as a company." 

Job opportunities

Kasteel Construction won the contract for the project, and found its own way to contribute to the spirit of the effort. 

Owner Trevor Kasteel said it began as a conversation: "Did you wanna hire any of the women here to do the work?" He called it a no-brainer. He offered two full-time positions and said nine women applied and five got to the interview stage. He ended up hiring two, one of whom is still working for the company. 

She's since done everything from drywalling and painting to helping out with general cleanup. 

Kasteel says he plans to do another round of hiring from the centre in the New Year. 

"It's just showing compassion for people and that they just need a chance."

The Yellowknife Women's Centre recently underwent a $1 million renovation. (Sara Minogue/CBC)


  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the federal government provided $400,000 for the project. In fact, the feds did not contribute and the N.W.T. Housing Corporation put in $750,000.
    Jan 02, 2020 10:45 AM CT