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YK state of emergency extended to keep temporary day shelter running

Housing minister Paulie Chinna has extended the state of emergency in Yellowknife, which had been declared to establish a temporary day shelter.

The extension lasts until December 4, and “will be extended for as long as it is required,” according to a statement from the GNWT.

Jay Boast, spokesperson for the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs – the office that coordinates the GNWT’s public emergencies – said the public emergency would continue to be extended until the temporary day shelter was no longer needed.

The emergency had been initially declared because COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions had lowered capacity at the existing day shelter, displacing around 40 patrons, according to the GNWT.

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“The resulting impact on clients in Yellowknife was considered an emergency with a need to secure temporary shelter with pending winter weather,” he wrote in an email. “As the underlying emergency circumstances have not changed, the state or emergency renewal was required to maintain these arrangements.”

The GNWT had previously said a temporary day shelter would be needed until March 31, 2021.

“The renewal of the state of emergency every 14 days will be required until emergency circumstances are mitigated,” Boast added.

When the state of emergency was declared on November 6, Ivan Russel head of the Emergency Management Organization said there were no plans to implement any other changes than setting up the temporary day shelter at the Side Door location.

The Side Door location was set up on November 9.

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“When we invoked the Emergency Management Act following the event of COVID,” Russel said in a press conference on November 6, “when we decided not to keep the state of emergency in place, it was recognized that we may have to invoke it again, depending on how the situation changes.”

The GNWT has not said whether any other services or programs will be implemented under the Emergency Management Act. This is despite the new temporary day shelter, being run out of the former location for the Mine Safety Building – also the former home of the Side Door youth shelter – only having a capacity of 25 people including staff.

This leaves around 15 people displaced, according to the GNWT’s own numbers.

“The nature of these services sees clients coming-and-going throughout the day,” David Maguire, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services, said in an email. “So in any given day, the centres may serve more than their capacity as not all clients are accessing the services at the same time.”

“Through these day centre services we have a regular touch point with individuals who are homeless or under-housed and this allows the service providers to understand demand/need,” he added. “We will continue to monitor the capacity of the day centre services to determine if the expanded capacity meets the needs of those looking for a warm, safe place during the day.”

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