New sobering, day centre a huge improvement, say Yellowknife's homeless
'People are more lively here,' says Randy Allen of new facility, open 24/7
Some people who live on the streets in Yellowknife say the new sobering and day centre on 50th Street is a huge improvement to the services they had access to before.
The centre's opening celebration was held Monday morning, after services opened to the city's vulnerable population last week.
The centre is meant to provide a warm place for people to get off the street during the day, and a safe space for intoxicated people to sober up.
Norman Pierrot has been homeless off and on for two months.
Pierrot said that one of the great things about the new centre is that it's not overcrowded, unlike the previous shelter. He'll also have more time to take showers and do his laundry in the new facility.
Pierrot used to do those things at the Salvation Army — when he could.
"You have to go there a certain time of the day to do laundry, if nobody's using the facilities," Pierrot said.
"If there's somebody in front of you [for the showers] then you have to wait for them. Here, it's open all day."
Randy Allen, who's been homeless for over eight years, visited the new centre for the first time on Monday. The 32-year-old said the new facility is a huge step up.
"People are more lively here," he said, adding the centre is much cleaner, too.
"The old day centre is all rotten and smells pretty bad … The building is in poor shape."
Array of programming available
The 50th Street centre offers new programs, such as peer support groups and group therapy that tackle topics like healing and anger management.
It also offers culturally-based programs such as sewing circles, and people who use the centre will be able to get help contacting friends and family in their home communities.
Staff will also help clients navigate services in their home communities, such as obtaining housing, if they want to return there.
Both Allen and Pierrot said they plan to access some of these programs.
"I want to try and get off the streets and try to get my own place here so I can find a job and that," said Pierrot.
Denise McKee, executive director of the NWT Disabilities Council, which operates the facility, said it's important to offer these types of programs for people who use the centre, in order to help them heal.
"By creating a space where they come in and they feel valued and welcomed and that they connect to people, it then will create that opportunity for them to look beyond their current circumstances and create a new narrative for their story," she said.
The new centre is open 24/7, with the day centre running from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and the sobering centre running from 10 a.m. to 8 a.m. the following day, closing for two hours each day.
The Northwest Territories government has a five-year lease on the property, with the option to extend it for another five years.