Follow the arrow: New approach for Yukon government services

The Yukon government has opened a new office to guide youth towards government services. It'll be open until 10 p.m. six nights a week. 'It's a brand new concept to Yukon," says the Minister of Health and Social Services.

One-stop office designed for youth will open evenings and weekends

The new centre is advertised by a bright arrow on 2nd Avenue in Whitehorse. It will open from 2 to 10 p.m. six days a week. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

There's a big arrow pointing to the door on a neon-pink sign. 

You can't miss it — and that's the point, says Yukon's Minister of Health and Social Services Mike Nixon. 

'We want it to be visible," he said.

Nixon spoke today at the opening of a new Whitehorse office called Integrated Supports for Yukon Youth. It will offer young people access to all Yukon government services in one place.

The new office is designed to serve people under the age of 24. It will be open six days a week from 2 to 10 p.m.

"This is something completely new for our territory. While service hubs have been used elsewhere it's a brand new concept to Yukon," Nixon said.

"Often our youth aren't aware of the services that are available for them, or perhaps they can't access them during regular school or work hours."

'One-door approach' 

The new office is part of the territory's new mental health strategy

It does not represent new funding, but rather re-allocates staff from within the Yukon government who used to work in different offices and regular business-hour shifts, Nixon said. 

He says the new "one-door approach" will prevent people from running around.

"Our current system can be difficult and can be complex to navigate, especially if you're not sure of what you want or where you are going," he said. 

"People don't necessarily want to have to tell their story over and over again to multiple service providers, when they could just tell it to one."   

The office will house a manager, a social worker, two family support workers and one administrative assistant with rotating staff from other departments.

Doug Graham, Yukon's Minister of Education, says the office will also have room for staff from the Education and Justice departments. 

He promises it will help Yukon's government "co-ordinate services for individuals with really complex needs." 

"It's our responsibility as educators and social service workers to make those young people comfortable when they're trying to figure things out," Graham said.

'Pointing them in the right direction'

"When youth walk in through the door, we'll be helping them find services within Yukon government. We'll be pointing them in the right direction," said Miriam Simon, the centre's manager.

Manager Miriam Simon says it's essential the office be open late. 'That's when youth often need some help,' she said. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

This could include applications for passports, Yukon IDs, child care subsidies, housing, mental health support, counselling, education grants, social assistance or other requests. 

Simon says working evenings and weekends is a good idea because placing people in shelters when emergencies happen late at night will be one of the centre's duties.

"I think it's essential. It's after-hours because that's when youth need some help," she said.

Graham said the office on 2nd Ave is considered a pilot project and will be studied over the next two years to see if it should be tried in smaller Yukon communities.