Day shelter neighbour uses Facebook to expose violence

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April Desjarlais has taken to Facebook to raise awareness of the homelessness crisis that is unfolding outside her business.

Desjarlais is the owner of the Finn Hansen building on 50 Street, which is right next door to the city’s sobering centre and day shelter. In recent weeks, she has spoken out against the steady drumbeat of violent incidents that have taken place outside her property since the shelter opened last year.

She made a presentation to city council on March 25 where she revealed disturbing footage captured via security camera, including a particularly troubling clip which appears to show a woman being choked unconscious.

On April 10, several of the videos were posted to a Facebook page called the Yellowknife Day Shelter Neighbours Group.

“Many people have advised me to use social media to raise awareness but that’s not something I’ve wanted to do,” states an April 10 post. “Victims and bystanders deserve privacy and respect. But after witnessing this incident, I felt that if I didn’t act, there just would be more and more victims.”

Desjarlais has been voicing frustration over what she is calling lack of outreach from the city.

“I’m still waiting for someone from the city to reach out to me,” reads her Facebook post. “Mayor Alty has walked right by my office three times since I presented to council. I know that the city must be as frustrated with YKHSS (Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority) and their inability to deliver on their promises of safety as I am. But as of yet, no outreach.”

Thursday afternoon Mayor Rebecca Alty was seen doing a television interview outside the day shelter, but did not stop in to speak with Desjarlais, according to her post.

 

On April 8, the territorial government, NWT Disabilities Council and several parties responded with their own presentation to city council.

They defended the day shelter and sobering centre at length and spoke of how it has actually be reducing the number of violent incidents in the city, but admitted that this was a difficult problem.

Yellowknifer has reached out to Desjarlais and Mayor Rebecca Alty but has yet to receive a response.