51 Street lot could be home of new Yellowknife day shelter

The vacant lot on 51 Street the health department are considering turning into a new day shelter. (Photo by Bailey Moreton/MyTrueNorthNow.com.)
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A vacant lot on 51st Street, behind the Tree of Friendship Centre, has been shortlisted as one of the health department’s preferred locations for a new permanent day shelter.

Perry Heath, director of infrastructure planning for the Department of Health and Social Services, says while the application process hasn’t begun, the spot is near the top of the health department’s list.

That lot was chosen for a number of reasons, one of them being the fact it is downtown.

“We’ve heard on multiple occasions from multiple stakeholder groups that their preference is to have a location downtown,” he said. “The other one is we have a vacant lot and it’s commission land. We have tenure to the property, so there wouldn’t be any cost for us to purchase that land.”

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“It will allow us to invest more in the building as opposed to buying the land and the building,” added Heath.

The space is set to accommodate 99 people in total, with 60 people able to use the day shelter at a time, as well as 30 overnight beds. Twenty-eight of those are open access with two beds available for people with accessibility issues. That would give the shelter the biggest total capacity of those currently operating in the city.

Heath said the space is intended to be supplemental to the Salvation Army, which currently is the only men’s overnight shelter in town. That space had faced flooding issues earlier this year.

Yellowknife’s Salvation Army Citadel building, at the corner of Franklin Ave. and 45 St. (Supplied by Salvation Army.)

Heath said the territory has money approved to build a new building. The timeline is hard to nail down though, says Heath, because of COVID-19.

The temporary day shelter, which is currently situated in the Mine Resources building, is set to close down sometime this summer.

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“I can confirm it remains the intention to vacate the space in favour of a more suitable location for summer operations but at this time we are still in the planning stages so no firm details,” Damien Healy spokesperson for Health and Social Services, said in an email.

The temporary day shelter approval was a lengthy process, one which had to go through a bylaw review by the City of Yellowknife. This project would have to undergo a similar bylaw approval.

Work on that should begin later in the summer or rarely fall, according to Heath.

“Really beyond that, it’s difficult to tell at this point in time, how long it’s going to take. In all fairness, COVID has thrown us a bit of a curveball when it comes to construction projects,” said Heath.

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