The YWCA in Yellowknife is defending its decision to evict two women from safe housing at Lynn’s Place.
The organization says both women were told to leave last week, a “last resort” after the two had gone for months without paying rent, alongside other issues.
“It makes us very sad. You don’t want to see people fail. You want women to succeed at this,” said YWCA Yellowknife executive director Lyda Fuller.
“Some of the things that result in people being asked to leave are repeated non-payment of rent after many options have been considered, or disrupting other tenants’ quiet enjoyment of the premises.
“If somebody props open the back door and sneaks men in, repeatedly; if they repeatedly don’t pay rent; if they repeatedly do drugs to the extent that it impacts your neighbours. Those are the kinds of thing.
“We work with women over the course of several months before we would even consider asking somebody to leave.”
However, the move drew criticism online from Arlene Hache, the former executive director of the city’s Centre for Northern Families.
“Women and families at Lynn’s Place can, and have been booted to the street with no notice and no form of appeal,” alleged Hache.
“While the staff at Lynn’s Place have the job of helping stabilize women struggling with trauma, booting them to the street without another referral or option hardly seems like a plan – not the most effective advocacy strategy to me and certainly counter to the Housing First model the GNWT has bought into.”
Lynn’s Place, like all transitional housing in the Northwest Territories, is not subject to the Residential Tenancies Act.
That means occupants of Lynn’s Place don’t receive the same legal protection usually afforded to private tenants.
Hache went as far as to label this a “human rights violation”.
Fuller rejected this assertion, telling Moose FM she believes the YWCA’s exemption from the Residential Tenancies Act can help tenants in trouble, rather than hinder them.
In full: NWT Residential Tenancies Act (exemptions detailed on p13)
“There’s been a discussion going back and forth on Facebook around transitional housing not being under the Residential Tenancies Act, and how that seems to be harmful to women,” admitted Fuller.
“We felt that was not the case.
“We don’t have to give women a black mark if they are asked to leave our housing. To us, that’s a more responsive approach than if we took women to the rental officer and they had a black mark against them.”
Even if the act had been applicable, said Fuller, the two women evicted earlier in March would still have been asked to leave.
“Two of the things the act comments on are that you have to pay your rent and you can’t impinge on the quiet enjoyment of other tenants,” she said. “They are both grounds for eviction.”
Fuller insisted all options had been explored before evicting the women – adding that people asked to leave Lynn’s Place could still be offered other forms of support.
Emergency housing is one possible option for women evicted from transitional housing, though waiting lists at many Yellowknife housing facilities are long.
“We work over time with people to try to prevent problems and address things when they develop, and give people options for how they can fix it so they won’t be asked to leave,” said Fuller.
“We took the chance that we could help a couple of people who hadn’t done well elsewhere, and that gamble didn’t pay off. We are a housing agency; the last thing we want to do is to make people homeless.
“98% of all the people we see, who we have in housing, actually succeed. And that’s the gratifying thing. It is tough to ask people to leave but 98% of the people we see stay and improve.”