North

Yellowknife Women's Society takes on Housing First project

The city of Yellowknife's Housing First Project moves one step closer to reality on Wednesday, with the signing of the first contract to provide individual apartments for the city's homeless.

"Our end goal is to house 20 people in total," says society spokesperson

"The Housing First approach has been shown to reduce costs of services...emergency rooms, policing costs," says Bree Denning, the executive director of the Yellowknife Women's Society. (CBC)

The city of Yellowknife's Housing First Project moves one step closer to reality on Tuesday, with the signing of the first contract to provide individual apartments for the city's homeless.

The Yellowknife Women's Society won the $850,000 contract, which is expected to fund the program for two-and-a-half years. The society also runs the Centre For Northern Families — a women's shelter and daycare.

Bree Denning, the society's executive director, said four of Yellowknife's homeless will each be provided their own apartment by October of 2016. The most vulnerable and unable to provide for themselves will be selected first.

"What we will be doing is monitoring the human resources and costs that go into housing those four individuals so that we know how quickly we can expand within the funding parameters," said Denning.

"Our end goal is to house 20 people in total, and to get there as quickly as possible, but do so in a way that we ensure that we have the resources to make sure that we are properly giving programs and services to those 20 people."

Denning said the only string attached for participants is to meet with a service worker once a week, but added even that requirement would be negotiable. 

She said the aim of the project is to reduce homelessness and strain caused by homelessness on emergency and police services, and eventually to graduate some clients to reduced or market rent.

"The Housing First approach has been shown to reduce costs of services...emergency rooms, policing costs, in other jurisdictions. And has been tried in areas with large urban aboriginal populations. So I think there is that evidence supporting it," said Denning.

"However, this is a new environment. There is a Northern context that hasn't been applied to the Housing First model.

"We're going to give it a try, and we are going to pay close attention to see what we can do to make it work."

The project is entirely funded by the Government of Canada's Homelessness Partnering Strategy.

Denning expects more funding will be required to accommodate 20 participants. The first four participants are not yet selected.

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