Yellowknife COVID-19 isolation shelter receives $150K donation from Rio Tinto

The funding boost will allow the Yellowknife Women's Society's COVID-19 isolation shelter to house five more residents and hire three additional support staff.

The funding will allow the shelter to house 5 more residents

Yellowknife Women’s Society staff members pose for a photo with residents of the society's COVID-19 isolation shelter, which is located at the former Arnica Inn on Franklin Avenue. (Amanda Annand/Rio Tinto)

Yellowknife's COVID-19 isolation shelter is getting a significant funding boost from the company that partly-owns and operates the territory's Diavik diamond mine.

According to a news release Thursday, Rio Tinto is partnering with the Yellowknife Women's Society to contribute $150,000 to the isolation shelter, located at the old Arnica Inn.

The money will go toward hiring three more employees to help provide ongoing service and programming for the shelter's residents, who are at a high risk of getting seriously ill or dying, should they contract COVID-19.

The funding will also help the shelter continue to provide food and accommodation services.

Bree Denning, the society's executive director, said the extra staff support will have a significant impact on the shelter.

"It's very exciting for us," she said, noting that the new employees will help organize more activities for residents.

"We're really focusing on getting people out enjoying nature because that's a safe thing for them to do. It is much better than being [at the shelter] going through boredom and loneliness and everything else that's affecting people going through this pandemic."

Bree Denning, executive director of the Yellowknife Women's Society, says there is currently a waitlist of people hoping to get into its COVID-19 isolation shelter. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

According to Rio Tinto, this donation is the company's "most significant COVID-19 contribution in the Northwest Territories to date."

Richard Storrie, Diavik's president and chief operating officer, said the mine is pleased to support the community it's located in.

"Staying safe and well is at the core of how we operate," Storrie said in the news release. "We believe that we all have a role to play in protecting and supporting each other through COVID-19."

Shelter set to house 5 more residents

As of late, Denning said the shelter has operated with funding from the N.W.T. Department of Health and Social Services to help 25 people. Now, with an extra $150,000, she said the shelter will be able to house five more residents, which will be welcome news to those currently waitlisted to get in.

"It's been amazing how fortunate we've been with the community support," she said. "The pandemic has affected a lot of people in really negative ways, and we've found that nonetheless there are a lot of individuals and companies that are willing to step up and provide support to people who are the most vulnerable."

Denning said the shelter has a contract to remain open until March 31, 2021. At that point, they'll reassess whether to continue its COVID-19 services or transition back into its original purpose: providing supportive housing for those in need.

With files from Walter Strong


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