Guest comment by Sheila Bassi-Kellet, SAO of Yellowknife; Bruce Cooper, deputy minister of Health and Social Services; and Sue Cullen, CEO of the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority
We are writing to provide additional information in response to your July 27 editorial, “Straight talk needed on sobering centre.”
The editorial suggests a “lack of direct communication for residents and businesses about the project” and suggests the “GNWT really has to reassess how thoroughly it’s communicating with people…”
To confirm, for your readers and editorial team, the City of Yellowknife sent out Notices of a Proposed Land Use to residents and businesses within a 30-metre radius of 5111-50 St. last fall. These notices, which included appeal period information, are standard process for the City of Yellowknife. The notices provided direct communication to neighbours and were hand delivered and signed upon receipt.
The editorial also covered the presentation by the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (THSSA) and the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) to the Municipal Services Committee (City of Yellowknife). It indicated that this presentation was unclear regarding the opening of the Sobering Centre and Day Shelter. I would like to confirm that the combined Sobering Centre and Day Shelter will open mid-September and that operations for both programs will begin at the same time.
The presentation also outlined, as part of the safety and security plan, a priority of neighbourhood integration for neighbours. This includes a contact for any concerns and the opportunity for an open house prior to opening. This presentation was in addition to the two news releases issued by the Department of Health and Social Services Sept. 12, 2017, Oct. 27, 2017, and a public announcement April 4, 2018.
This location was selected after 22 other locations were considered but, for a variety of reasons, weren’t able to accommodate programming and/or the needs of our residents. The new combined location will be open 24 hours per day and has the capacity to serve up to 60 people. The design features adequate interior space to avoid sidewalk line-ups for programming and surveillance cameras to ensure the safety of our clients, staff, and neighbours.
Addressing social issues in downtown Yellowknife is a complex challenge and requires a lot of different partners working together to develop short and long term solutions. The GNWT (HSS and THSSA) will continue to partner with the City of Yellowknife and ensure supports are in place for our residents that are most in need.