After debate through the late summer and fall over where to situate an emergency shelter, the Government of the Northwest Territories stated that it’s pleased with how the situation has panned out for users.
Lisa Giovanetto, communications and marketing officer with the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA), stated that the territorial government believes it’s off to a positive start in providing a warm place and basic services at the former SideDoor Youth Centre building on 49 Avenue.
During weekdays, there are six staff members providing assistance, including one supervisor.
On weekends, there are five staff members working each day.
On Thursday, Paulie Chinna, minister of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA), announced that she was extending a state of emergency under the Emergency Management Act through to Dec. 4.
The official declaration, made on Nov. 6, had come about to address the need for additional shelter space as a result of ongoing capacity limitations due to Covid-19.
Giovanetto said the GNWT’s focus is now to ensure that the temporary shelter can continue during the winter months and “for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“We are pleased with the first week of operations at our new location,” she stated. “Over 50 individuals are accessing the shelter on a daily basis and the feedback received from clients and some neighbours has been expressly positive.”
The department will also be working in the coming months to enhance programming for users and will focus on consulting with neighbours – including businesses – to “ensure we are meeting our commitment to provide a safe environment both inside and outside of the building,” Giovanetto said.
Giovanetto stated that after the significant drop in temperature on Nov. 11, there is a greater tendency for users to remain in the shelter for warmth.
“In addition to providing shelter to combat the harsh outside environment, our program also provides warm winter gear to individuals, including jackets, hats, mitts and neck warmers, to ensure they have appropriate clothing for winter weather,” she stated.
Community Advisory Board on Homelessness
Giovanetto stated that NTHSSA intends to keep the city informed as it holds a non-voting seat on the city’s Community Advisory Board on Homelessness (CAB).
“The purpose of this committee is to provide advice to the city regarding homelessness issues, and NTHSSA is able to provide information and updates about the shelter to the city through this committee,” she said.
“In addition to this, the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) and Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA) would be happy to provide the City of Yellowknife with updates on the temporary shelter services, as requested.”
Mayor Rebecca Alty said she had not heard any updates on how the day shelter service was going, although, based on observations from walking by she deemed that it’s going well.
She added that she doesn’t necessarily anticipate updates from the GNWT at future meetings as the situation is in the control of the territorial government.
“We (the city) generally don’t get updates on the operations of the shelter,” Alty said. “When the GNWT wraps up operations there, council may be interested in getting an update so we can hear what safety and security measures worked well.”