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Yellowknife Women's Society looks to turn hotel into transitional housing

A charitable group that helps women in Yellowknife hopes to get the OK from the city to turn a still-to-be-acquired hotel into transitional housing, then open it this year.

Converting Arnica Inn to transitional housing would provide 42 bachelor apartments

Arnica Inn is located on Franklin Avenue in Yellowknife. (Steve Silva/CBC)

A charitable group that helps women in Yellowknife hopes to get the OK from the city to turn a still-to-be-acquired hotel into transitional housing, then open it this year.

"When people have a home and their basic core needs are met, then they can actually start working on some of the deeper issues that they're facing that has put them on the streets," said Monique Robitaille, chair of the Yellowknife Women's Society.

She pitched the idea to city councillors at Monday's governance and priorities committee meeting. 

In order for the project to move forward, the group needs to get approval from the city for this kind of land use.

Several councillors voiced their support for the pitch, and the matter was forwarded to a later council meeting.

One of the aims of the pitch is to address homelessness in the city, Robitaille said, referencing the 338 people counted as homeless in Yellowknife in a 2018 survey.

Monique Robitaille is the chair of the Yellowknife Women’s Society. (Steve Silva/CBC)

The Arnica Inn, located on Franklin Avenue, would be converted to provide 42 bachelor apartments, and there would be an attendant on the property at all hours.

Tenants, who may be getting financial support from elsewhere, would have to pay rent for the affordable housing, Robitaille said.

The units would be for people chronically homeless, women escaping domestic abuse, people dealing with mental health issues, among others, said Robitaille.

They would get support to learn how to be good tenants and how to keep their homes clean, among other things.

Coun. Stacie Smith said during the meeting that she fears the building may eventually be considered a "slum" by some people, given the tenants with "unique issues." She also noted the group won't ban tenants from drinking alcohol in their homes.

Robitaille responded, in part, by saying there would be security and supports for tenants.

The Yellowknife Women's Society will be working with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, among other organizations, to come up with the money to buy the property, pending city approval for the plan.

The organization's offices would relocate to the property, and several of its programs would be offered there.

"Giving people a home, they become part of the community," said Robitaille. "They, ultimately, would feel a sense of connection to the community and, hopefully, a sense of pride, as well, and that in itself is part of the healing journey."

Ideally, the transitional housing at the site would open by Sept. 1, she said.

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