Yellowknife’s new day shelter likely won’t be built until 2024 as the territorial government looks for ways to give service to the city’s homeless population.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services says work on a permit application will start later in the summer or early fall, when a design team has been contacted.
Consultations are going well, the spokesperson added. But in the meantime, the only day shelter service available in town is the Sobering Centre, which is running at reduced capacity.
“NTHSSA and the Department were working on an alternative solution to ensure that shelter users were properly supported in a similar manner as at the Mine Rescue Building,” a spokesperson said in an email.
“Unfortunately, a suitable space was not found, leaving the Aspen site as the only alternative. However, the layout of the facility does not support a day centre type service. Services that were being provided were food distribution, laundry, restroom and shower access.”
The temporary day shelter, held at the Mine Resources building, was shut on May 31. That shelter was set up because of the reduced capacity at the existing Sobering Centre, run by the NWT Disabilities Council, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
An appeal filed with the city means the GNWT has to shut down until a review of the permit is completed.
The health department had shortlisted a vacant lot on 51st Street as a location for a new, permanent day and overnight shelter. The plan is for the space to accommodate 99 people in total, with 60 people able to use the day shelter at a time, as well as 30 overnight beds.
Now the health department is recommending homeless residents go to either the Sobering Centre for food or the Salvation Army for shower and washroom services.
“There was very little time for consultation with shelter users so this only occurred at the last minute in the form of a service suspension notice and information about where other supports were available,” he said.
People at the shelter were told about the cancellation of services on June 8 and were advised in person by staff.
NTHSSA also had staff go to the Salvation Army the morning of June 9 to hand out breakfast and tell shelter users that services would stop at Aspen.
The health department spokesperson said they are looking at potential locations for a temporary shelter if it is needed come the fall.