Inuk Charlie was driving a cab in Yellowknife when health problems suddenly put him out of work.
Left without a home, he found a new one at Bailey House.
Charlie, who moved out of the transitional housing centre for men in February after a three-year stay, is one of nearly 400 men who have called Bailey House – operated by the Yellowknife’s Salvation Army – home since it opened its doors a decade ago.
The 10-year milestone was celebrated at a community barbecue on June 27, where Charlie and representatives of the Salvation Army spoke to dozens of attendees gathered outside the 32-bed residential facility, located on Franklin Avenue.
“Every time we impact a man who comes here to the Bailey House, we’re not just impacting one individual. We’re impacting their family and the next generation. We’re impacting the future,” said Major Al Hoeft, the area commander.
Championed by the Yellowknife Homelessness Coalition and the city’s Salvation Army, Bailey House became the territory’s first transitional men’s centre when it officially opened in February 2009, with funding from both the federal and territorial governments.
Making the badly needed Bailey House a reality involved “funding from the federal government, property from the territorial government, a land swap with the city of Yellowknife, and a local businessman who was also part of the equation,” said Hoeft, himself one of many who played a key role in bringing Bailey House to life.
“It was an example of how as a community we can all work together to find solutions to the issues we face,” he said.
Salvation Army Yellowknife’s church leader Jason Brinson said Bailey House acts as a “bridge” between past struggles and new chapters for men who have faced homelessness or addiction. It gives men the opportunity to regain a sense of normalcy in their lives, he said.
Those who are accepted into the centre are assigned caseworkers who work closely with each individual to craft tailor-made personal development plans, which focus on fostering healthy relationships and preventing relapses. The goal is to give Bailey House residents the independence, confidence and tools they need to successfully transition back into the community, he said.
Looking ahead to the next 10 years, Brinson said he’d like to see residential addictions programs become available in the NWT.
“There’s so many people in the community who could benefit from culturally sensitive programs and we don’t have that here,” he said.
Brinson said he’s become acutely aware of the deep connection between addiction and trauma, telling Yellowknifer the latter is often overlooked when someone is being treated for addictions issues – something that became apparent to him in his interactions with Inuk Charlie.
Charlie, a Nunavut-born residential school survivor, remembers vividly the moment he realized just how intertwined addiction and trauma really are.
In 2008, Charlie had been sober for years. He hadn’t touched a cigarette in more than two decades.
Then he watched former Prime Minister Stephen Harper make a formal apology to Canada’s Indigenous peoples for the residential school system.
“As soon as he apologized, I had a cigarette in one hand and a whiskey in the other,” Charlie told Yellowknifer.
“For many of us who have gone to residential school, we suppress things really, really well,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that the trauma is healed, it’s just dormant. It doesn’t go anywhere unless you let it out.”
He credits Bailey House, along with a residential school survivor healing program in Hay River, with helping him deal with his trauma.
Bailey House is named after Rev. Gordon and Ruth Bailey. Their names became synonymous with compassion and kindness, after the couple began welcoming homeless men – known then as the “Bailey Boys” – into their Latham Island home in the 1970s.