Here's what Whitehorse candidates say about ending poverty and homelessness

The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition invited all mayoral and council candidates to a tea this past week, where they had the opportunity to speak about how they would end poverty and homelessness in Whitehorse.

Candidates speak with people who experienced poverty and homelessness in the city

Eleven of the 25 municipal candidates came to the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition's meeting to discuss ending homelessness and poverty in Whitehorse. (Claudiane Samson / Radio-Canada)

Whitehorse's municipal election candidates were invited this past week to meet with people who have experienced poverty and homelessness, and have some tea together.

It's the first time the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition has hosted such a forum. In past elections, it offered "see it yourself tours," where candidates were invited to walk through different non-profit buildings that run daytime programming.

This time, three graduates from the coalition's "Voices Influencing Change" program, which teaches people who experienced poverty and homelessness to advocate for themselves, participated in the discussion.

"I think the candidates were honest about where they sort of sit," said Kristina Craig, executive director of the coalition.

All 25 mayoral and council candidates were invited and 11 attended.

Each had two minutes to answer this question: "What is one thing you would do to help end poverty and homelessness in Whitehorse, if elected?"

Responses are listed in alphabetical order.

Cory Adams (running for council)

Cory Adams said the best way to prevent homelessness is to increase wages, though the territorial government sets the minimum wage and not the city. Currently, it's $11.51.

Adams said that cost of living is rising, and increasing wages to keep up with inflation will help prevent people from becoming homeless.

Laura Cabott (running for council)

In 2017, the city came up with "Safe at Home," a community-based action plan to end and prevent homelessness. The document was created from working groups including representatives from Kwanlin Dun First Nation, Yukon Housing Corporation and community members with lived experience of homelessness.

"A lot of stuff that is in [Safe at Home] has been talked about for years," said Laura Cabott. She said she fears that organizations like the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition are getting frustrated giving their input on what needs to change, but not seeing enough being done. That's why she calls for more leadership from council.

Cabott said if elected, she would implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) calls to action.

Scott Etches (running for council)

"The one thing I would do to end poverty in Whitehorse is everything," said Scott Etches.

He listed healthy communities, affordable housing, quality education, accessible transportation, and employment as all things necessary to end poverty.

Specifically, Etches wants to create an initiative where city council would meet with non-profits and different government institutions to help deliver services.

"If we as council sit down and pull together, we can actually become that glue that creates these healthy communities," he said.

Each candidate had two minutes to answer this question: 'What is one thing you would do to help end poverty and homelessness in Whitehorse, if elected?' (Claudiane Samson / Radio-Canada)

Mike Gladish (running for council)

"The council is elected to be leaders, so I would want to be a leader and I would want to make sure that we used the document Safe At Home," said Mike Gladish.

Gladish said he would rely on the expertise of local non-governmental organizations, and said it's important to not make decisions without consulting the people affected.

"The leadership role is making sure that this is a no-brainer … that we don't argue about it at council meetings."

Rick Karp (running for mayor)

Rick Karp said a short-term solution to ending poverty and homelessness is turning Macaulay Lodge, a continuing care facility, into "a Safe at Home environment."

Macaulay Lodge is slated to close once residents have been transferred to the new Whistle Bend continuing care facility. 

Karp said support services could be offered at Macaulay Lodge, but he did not say who would fund or run such a facility.

"It's not only a place they can call home, but it would be like a condo," said Karp.

Karp suggested the residents of Macaulay would be responsible for the maintenance of the facility and this would provide the residents with jobs.

Colin LaForme (running for mayor)

"What I would like to see is a change in the paradigm of what we consider housing," said Colin LaForme.

He spoke about a recent experience at a Ronald McDonald House, a charity that gives families with sick children a place to stay near a hospital, while one of his children was sick.

"It was eye opening," said LaForme.

He said there was sense of community in that building. LaForme said he wants to change zoning bylaws to create different types of buildings for more inclusive spaces.

Kim Lisgo (running for council)

Lisgo said she needs to talk with experts, and review the options to see which would be best and most cost-effective solution.

Lisgo said she would review the Safe at Home plan, and if she was satisfied with the "rigour behind its authorship," she would move forward with its recommendations.

Danny Macdonald (running for council)

Danny Macdonald said the one thing he could do is to continue to educate himself and others on the role everyone has to end and prevent homelessness.

He also said there needs to be reflection on programming to assess whether they're effective, and admit when things are not working.

Macdonald said this would be done by working with the organizations on the ground.

Eileen Melnychuk (running for council)

Eileen Melnychuk said she would implement the TRC's recommendations.

"That would get under some of the underlying issues that contribute to homelessness," said Melnychuk.

Melnychuk said she would also start implementing the recommendations from Safe at Home. 

She suggested council start an education campaign to inform people of what needs to be done, and what steps they are taking to implement the plan.

The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition said it's valuable for the candidates to speak with people who have lived experiences of homelessness. Three graduates from the coalition's 'Voices Influencing Change' program joined the discussion. (Claudiane Samson / Radio-Canada)

She also said the city should open up another shelter and suggested Macaulay Lodge as an option.

Steve Roddick (running for council)

Steve Roddick said there needs to be changes to the development incentive policy — which gives property tax grants to developments that build four or more supportive housing units in their buildings — to define affordable housing and funnel money in that direction.

He said as a councillor he would want to be regularly updated by the committee working to implement Safe at Home.

Roddick also said progress needs to be measured using the metric in the Safe at Home plan.

Roslyn Woodcock (running for council)

"We can come up with all kinds of ideas that are based on very little knowledge," said incumbent Coun. Roslyn Woodcock.

"That's why this document [Safe at Home] is so important to me — I don't have to come up with a plan."

Woodcock said it's the job of council to figure out how, and how quickly, the city can move on the Safe at Home recommendations.