Yellowknife city council voted Wednesday night to allow funding for the Common Ground homelessness employment program to grow, defeating a motion that would have flat-lined funding at $100,000 per year.
Coun. Stacie Smith emphasized the positive role of the program and urged for continued support and to grow it.
Common ground was launched earlier this year by the city and Yellowknife Women’s Society. The program puts a crew of eight to work five days a week picking up litter and debris in public spaces throughout Yellowknife. Crew members rotate, depending on who is able to work that day.
The motion would have seen the funding for the homelessness employment program fall to $100,000 from $103,000.
The draft budget allocates $103,000 of spending in 2019 for the program, followed by annual increases to $107,000 in 2020 and $110,000 in 2021 to keep pace with inflation.
“The program that has been put in place has had an increased positive effect on our homeless population for a lot of people. As a business owner downtown, I’ve seen many of them walk around downtown with their heads up. I don’t want to see this decreased. I want to see more of our homeless be employed. A lot of them feel they are not one with the community. It’s nice to see them with a positive outlook,” said Smith.
“I want to see this grow, rather than maintain it at the status quo,” she said.
Couns. Niels Konge, Rommel Silverio, Robin Williams and Steve Payne voted to keep the funding at $100,000. Couns. Julian Morse, Stacie Smith, Shauna Morgan, Cynthia Mufandaedza and Mayor Rebecca Alty voted to ensure the program’s sustained funding increases year over year.
Council votes to reinstate library assistant position
Several jobs have been on the chopping block during budget deliberations, as the city faces a debt wall while tackling major projects, including a proposed new aquatic centre and a necessary city water intake replacement.
After earlier cutting a library assistant position, council voted to reinstate it Wednesday.
The library offers a range of programs for Yellowknifers and the city has to “adequately staff” it to ensure its long-term sustainability, said Coun. Shauna Morgan.
“We see the general social issues in our downtown affecting the vitality of our downtown. We can change that in a big way by attracting more people downtown and to the library in particular with these cool programs. It changes the dynamic and creates a social pressure that discourages bad behaviour,” said Morgan.
Improving social programs is a way to improve the general atmosphere downtown, rather than ramping up policing, she said.
Yellowknife is understaffed at its library, compared to other Canadian jurisdictions, said Morgan.
The city budget lists five staff, including three library assistants.
With $20,000 a year in overtime and expenditures, the city is faced with reducing library programs or sustaining its current level of programming with commensurate staffing levels.
Councillors Williams, Konge and Silverio opposed reinstating the library assistant position.
Mayor Rebecca Alty and councillors Julian Morse, Stacie Smith, Cynthia Mufandaedza and Steve Payne voted to reinstate the position.