Yellowknife MLA calls for new leadership at day shelter
Robert Hawkins says the downtown shelter is not being run properly
Yellowknife MLAs are debating the future of the downtown day shelter in the legislature.
The territory is putting aside $175,000 in the new budget to keep the shelter open.
But Robert Hawkins, the MLA for Yellowknife Centre, says it needs new management.
"We have deviant behavior going on at the day shelter," Hawkins said in the Legislative Assembly.
He said the day shelter is not being run properly and is failing to provide counselling and support.
"The shelter has to be run with a solid management that understands the problem. [Health] Minister [Tom] Beaulieu said today in the house that they need money for training. I think they bit off something they didn't know what to do with, and it’s more than they can chew," Hawkins said.
The drop-in centre is a gathering place for people who need to get off the street. The John Howard Society has run it for three years, with its executive director, Lydia Bardak, at the helm.
Hawkins said he's fed up with hearing about the shelter’s occupants being drunk and disruptive.
Bardak says the staff does not allow drinking inside.
"We're working with a severely disabled population, multiply-disabled, and many of them substance abusing, so very many of them are not yet ready to start making changes. The best we can do is talk and encourage and start pointing to some changes that could be made," Bardak said.
Frame Lake MLA Wendy Bisaro said the issue isn’t the management, but chronic underfunding.
"It doesn't give them an opportunity to provide much more than staffing — to make it secure for staff, to make it secure for people that are there," Bisaro said. "And there's no opportunity for them to run programs that will help the people that do come in there."
Bardak said with more funding, the shelter could provide more activities and opportunities for people to volunteer and complete community service hours.
The John Howard Society puts about $60,000 a year into the shelter to keep it running.
The Minister of Health says the contract to run the shelter may go to a request for proposals next year.
Bardak said she hopes to stay involved.