Yellowknife’s housing first initiative will be made official during a public contract signing at city hall on Tuesday.
The event is scheduled for Tuesday at 2:00 pm in the upstairs public foyer at city hall, after an $834,000 contract was awarded earlier this month to The Yellowknife Women’s Society.
The society was the sole organization to bid on the city-facilitated, federally funded initiative, which hopes to have at four people in housing by the end of October, and up to 20 people by 2019.
“It’s not going to solve the homelessness issue but it is one initiative of many that we can put in place to begin to address this issue,” said Bree Denning , executive director of the women’s society.
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Denning says the society is hiring and looking for office space, before the group moves on to policy work in September. Much of the policy work will revolve around finding suitable apartments for people.
“Part of the philosophy of housing first is that individuals have some choice about where they’re living,” said Denning.
“Part of the process will be talking to people about where they want to live and working with Northview Apartment REIT [Real Estate Investment Trust] to identify some apartments.”
Denning stressed that the program is open to other landlords in the future, should they be interested in participating.
The funding stems from a $1 million investment in 2014 and $300,000 in 2016 by the federal government under the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS), to be put towards initiatives like housing first.
Housing first is designed to find housing for people who are hard-to-house, such as someone dealing with addiction. Access to the program is determined by a “Vulnerability Assessment Tool”, where priority is given to those individuals most at risk of harm.
“It’s different from transitional housing in that there are no parameters placed on the individual, such as maintaining sobriety, other than paying 30 per cent of rent and a meeting with a person from the team at least once a week,” said denning.
The city will still oversee the project with support, arranging training and helping with contracts. Such an approach has already been used in several Canadian cities.
Individuals can live in their units for as long as they wish, so long as there are no issues arise with the landlord.
If an issue comes up with the landlord, and a tenant is evicted, the society will work to help the tenant understand the eviction, and how to better prepare for another housing unit. This is a process known as “re-housing”.
“We acknowledge there might be issues to someone’s adjustment to living in private housing that may lead to eviction,” said Denning.
“Our role is to assist in that process, not to rescue, but to assist so we that wan help our program participants to learn from it and be successful in another rental location.”
The program won’t organize in-house visits by medical professionals, because the program doesn’t have funding to operate such services.
Clients will still be provided with contact information for service providers, however, during weekly visits from the housing team.