YWCA NWT still searching for permanent home after Rockhill apartment fire

Over a week after a fire consumed the Rockhill apartment building in Yellowknife, the YWCA NWT — which leased the building from the N.W.T. government — is still in search of a permanent home.

The organization is still trying to figure out where its funding will come from

A firefighter fights the flames from the ground at Rockhill apartments in Yellowknife. The residents of the building have all found housing for now, but the YWCA, who leased the building and had its offices in it, is still in search of a home. (Priscilla Hwang/CBC)

Over a week after a fire consumed the Rockhill apartment building in Yellowknife, the YWCA NWT — which leased the building from the N.W.T. government — is still in search of a permanent home.

"Things are still really up in the air," said Alayna Ward, the organization's director of community relations.

The YWCA NWT used to work out of the Rockhill apartment building on 54 Avenue, before an Oct. 2 fire destroyed the building. Within hours of the fire, 33 displaced families had been housed.

Alayna Ward is the director of community relations for the YWCA NWT. (Submitted by Alayna Ward)
There's no permanent office space, and there's no decisions made on if families are going to be moved back into a centralised housing unit [at this time]," said Ward.

For now, families have moved into apartment buildings across the city or are staying with family members.

Meanwhile, the YWCA's staff are split up. Housing staff have found temporary office space on Gitzel St., while their administrative staff are in another temporary location in town.

Ward said the organization is in the midst of finding office space, but it's difficult right now with funding up in the air.

The YWCA rented out the 33 transitional housing units at Rockhill, according to Ward, and that rent offset a lot of salary costs for the organisation's supported housing staff.

"Without that revenue … there is no revenue coming in to pay the housing staff, which obviously creates a huge gap in funding for the YWCA staff and support," she said, adding that where that future funding will come from is "still being explored."

Ward said the organization is still figuring out how it will deliver some of its services, including after school care and empowerment programs.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to the territory's fire marshal Chucker Dewar.

He said the investigation has been challenging because officials believe the fire's source was destroyed during firefighting efforts.

"Little evidence could be drawn from the physical scene," he said.

Dewar said his team is talking to first responders, tenants and eyewitnesses to figure out how the fire started, adding that early photos of the fire indicate it originated on the ground floor. 

He said he doesn't have any reason to believe the fire is suspicious, and is asking anybody who might know anything about the cause of the fire to contact his office.