Yellowknife Women exiting homelessness may soon face hopeful employment prospects following a new Yellowknife Women’s Society social enterprise project.
The Yellowknife Women’s Society, though in the early stages, is conducting market research on the best ways of creating job opportunities for the street involved population.
“The women we serve, who are nearly all First Nations, Inuit or Metis, experience a lot of racism, classism and sexism in their searches for employment,” said Neesha Rao, interim executive director of the Yellowknife Women’s Society.
“The goal is to create job opportunities targeted towards women who are exiting homelessness and to give them valuable life skills so they can gain employment in the future.”
While the market research has only just begun, Rao intends to make use of the former Arnica Inn the society bought earlier this year. The building, which the society has renamed to Spruce Bough, has a commercial kitchen, washer and dryer, as well as cafe space that Rao said serve as possible employment opportunities for their clients.
Rao could not yet speak to the project’s timeline. She said the Women’s Society will be issuing a request for proposals and will then select a contractor based on submissions.
The project is made possible by a $50,000 grant from the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s Investment Readiness Program (IRP) – a funding program that aims to boost women’s participation in the workforce.
The Yellowknife Women’ Society is one of 28 organizations approved for the funding. In total, IRP aims to support 40.
Sagal Dualeh, Canadian Women’s Foundation IRP director, said the approved projects are all at various stages of development. In addition to the funding, Dualeh explained the foundation provides workshops and training to help grant recipients implement their plans.
Working with the Canadian Women’s Foundation has been “a great opportunity” for the Yellowknife Women’s Society to “strengthen (their) capacity” and “to strengthen the capacity for financial independence for a lot of (their) clients as well,” Rao said.
Other projects supported by the IRP include an online learning centre and organizations exploring food security solutions.
Dualeh said the Canadian Women’s Foundation is pleased to support the Yellowknife Women’s Society. The IRP projects, she said, are especially important now as the pandemic has had “a unique impact on women and girls and two spirited people.”
Rao echoed the sentiment.
Reduced day shelter capacities and fewer economic opportunities are just a few examples Rao provided in which Covid has disproportionately impacted already vulnerable groups.
“I think that the Covid-19 pandemic has really exposed a lot of the fault lines in our society that were there before,” she said. “What we can do is try to strengthen organizations like ours that support this population, but also to give people a chance to be lifted up and to survive in our economy.”