Sobering Centre should return to capacity as indoor restrictions loosen: Chief Medical Doctor

Yellowknife's sobering centre is now the only option for services during the day for homeless residents. (Photo by MyTrueNorthNow.com staff.)
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With the lifting of restrictions on indoor gatherings, the GNWT says Yellowknife’s Sobering Centre should be up to full capacity.

The day shelter has been running at a reduced capacity since the pandemic began. But now the GWNT has lifted, the capacity should return to normal, according to AnneMarie Pegg, NWT’s chief medical doctor.

Dr. AnneMarie Pegg speaking at the Legislative Assembly. (Photo by Bailey Moreton/MyTrueNorthNow.com.)

“We are still looking at how best to ensure safety both for users of shelters and for staff working in them, given the fact that this is a population that is a pocket of vulnerability with regards to the vaccination coverage,” she said.

The shelter would qualify as one of the locations at higher risk, according to NWT’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola, because of the crowded conditions. 

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She said the GNWT would defer to the NWT Disabilities Council, who runs the Sobering Centre, on any decision about returning to capacity.

“We provide high level relaxing advice. But that doesn’t mean that high risk institutions that have been vulnerable patients or vulnerable clients or are crowded or congregate, such as corrections facilities, long term care facilities, healthcare facilities or shelters don’t have their own policies to be put in place or have additional restrictions,” she said.

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 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

An appeal filed with the city means the GNWT had to shut down temporary services at Aspen 

Apartments until a review of the permit is completed.

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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. 

But that space 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.

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