Revised plan to end homelessness in Yellowknife could cost $113M, save even more

Yellowknife city council will soon vote on the final draft of the 10-year plan to end homelessness.

Yellowknife city council will soon vote on the final draft of the 10-year plan to end homelessness

Part of Yellowknife's 10-year plan to eliminate homelessness includes reducing strain on existing services and transitioning people out of life on the streets and into stable, long-term housing. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Mark 2026 on your calendar.

By then Yellowknife should be virtually free of long-term homelessness. According to the final draft document Everyone is Home: Yellowknife's 10 year plan to end homelessness, everyone who wants a home will have a home.

It will cost $113 million over 10 years to get there, but it would cost a lot more over the same time to maintain the status quo, according to the plan. This cost is actually down from the at least $147 million initially estimated for the plan when it was announced earlier this year.

Funding is expected to be drawn from all levels of government.

The authors of the report say the long-term plan is fluid and involves $32 million in capital costs, but the short-term plan involves a number of elements already in place, like the Housing First and Housing First for Families programs.

240 into homes in 3 years

The initial three-year plan aims to move at least 240 people out of homelessness in Yellowknife at a cost of $7 million, without building any new housing.

"The money comes from different levels of government and different departments," said Linda Bussey, a Yellowknife city councillor.
City councillor Linda Bussey believes the plan can work, provided all levels of government are on board. (CBC)

"We are confident we can move 240 people, but we have to look at ECE [Department of Education, Culture and Employment] we have to look at [the department of] health, we have to look at the housing corporation. Those are key partners."

In the first three years of the program, including what's left of 2017, the plan is to make 100 market housing units (apartments) available under the Housing First model or through rent support.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Yellowknife has a vacancy rate of 4.2 per cent. There were 1,642 private apartments available in Yellowknife as of 2016. At a vacancy rate of 4.2 per cent, that means there are approximately 69 rental units available in the city, with more multi-bedroom units available than single or bachelor units.

That leaves the plan short 31 units, give or take.

"I'm not going to say it won't be a challenge, but I think it's attainable," Bussey said.

The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation maintains public housing units in Yellowknife; vacancy rate information for those units was not immediately available.

With no capital expenditures in the first three years, the bulk of the $7 million would go toward rent support ($2.8 million), and Housing First or rapid response programing ($2.9 million). The remainder would cover service delivery costs, social support, and Indigenous wellness and cultural supports ($1.3 million).

The authors of the report say the program will save money in the long run. They frame it as a question between spending on housing, or spending on crisis management.

$18K v. $120K per person, per year

The report estimates program housing and supports for an individual can cost up to $18,000 per year, but managing homelessness through "institutional" responses — police, ambulance, shelters, hospitals, jails and prisons — can climb as high as $120,000 per person, per year.

The report states for every dollar invested in ending chronic homelessness, up to two dollars in saving can be realized.

"If we don't address this issue, we're putting money into programs and services when we could be allotting that money to … not just reacting, but acting on situations," Bussey said.

Council will vote on the 10-year plan on June 26.

With files from Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi


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