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City reviews homelessness plan, point-in-time count coming

Results from the city’s latest point in time count of its homeless population are expected in late August or early September.

The survey was done back in April — it was supposed to be conducted in the previous year but was delayed due to COVID-19 — and will give an update to the city on how it’s efforts to end chronic homelessness in the city are going, according to Grant White, Director of Community Services with the City of Yellowknife.

The last count was completed in 2018.

In 2018, 338 people were counted as homeless in Yellowknife, according to the Point-in-Time Yellowknife Committee Homeless Count. Seventy-five per cent of those were deemed chronically homelessness.

Of the 338 people, 42 per cent were youths under the age of 24, and 104 were children under the age of 18. The report also found 90 per cent of Yellowknife’s homeless population identified as Indigenous.

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The count will come as the city is reviewing it’s progress towards the goals laid out in its ten year homelesness strategy — the biggest of which being eliminating chronic homelessness in the city.

“The plan will be reviewed and updated as necessary to ensure it remains relevant and reflects the current state of homelessness programs and services and provides an accurate way forward in addressing homelessness,” said White during a governance and priorities committee meeting on Monday.

Recently, shelter users have faced uncertainty with the temporary day shelter closing in Yellowknife, and an appeal filed with the city shuttering temporary services being held at Aspen Apartments.

That service, 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 — which have since been lifted.

GNWT officials said the capacity restrictions at the Sobering Centre should be lifted, but that the shelter was a space that would be classed as higher risk, adding that the NWT Disabilities Council could set their own capacity restrictions if they wished.

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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 the GNWT said that construction won’t be completed until 2024.

Some non-governmental organizations had also expressed frustration that their applications to various federal funding programs had been rejected, because the city hadn’t spent existing federal funding pots.

Mayor Rebecca Alty expressed frustration at a council meeting in February about restrictions the federal government puts on funding packages.

“The federal government’s creating policy from the ivory tower of Ottawa is a bit how I see this funding working. They have very strict directives that you can use it for this funding, but you can’t use it for this — it’s time sensitive, there’s no opportunity to roll funding over,” she said.

The new homeless count numbers will be presented to council, and the community advisory board on homelessness will review the numbers.

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