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The Yellowknife Women’s Society will celebrate Christmas in an almost brand new building when it moves in on Dec. 18.

Announced in June, the renovation of the society’s old building on Franklin Avenue is a joint project between the NWT Housing Corporation which provided $750,000, and De Beers, which provided $310,000 in addition to project management though Gahcho Kue Mine, a joint-venture with De Beers and Mountain Province Diamonds.

“It’s really exciting,” Bree Denning, Women’s Society executive director said. “This is the culmination of a vision that started in 2015.”

Trevor Kasteel of Kasteel Construction and Coatings, and Women’s Society Executive Director Bree Denning tour the renovated building.
Nick Pearce/NNSL photo

The women’s shelter opened in 2005 and served roughly 200 women in 2018. Around 57 per cent of its clients are from small communities, with another 37 per cent from Nunavut. The shelter has occupied a temporary facility since renovations began.

Upon moving into its renovated building, individualized rooms will allow for privacy and a retreat for those who’ve experienced trauma and poverty, said Denning.

The space used to be largely communal, meaning there was little opportunity for women to distance themselves from disagreements or other issues. This increased the likelihood that some clients would prefer to stay away from the shelter, even when it was cold outside or they were intoxicated.

“This allows another solution where women have a place they can go to be on their own. Cool off, calm down and have some space,” said Denning, adding there will be an expanded clinic with two assessment rooms.

There is also a new kitchen, primed to store larger volumes of food. The society previously struggled to process these donated food before it spoiled.

The space will also allow the women’s society to be more flexible in how it delivers programming.

“We really do want to become a space that allows women to move onto where they want to be,” said Denning.

A new front office will allow staff to do a better job of supervising the property and maintaining the safety of women on the property, Denning said.

Previous concerns in the old building, including poor ventilation and condensation, have all been addressed, she added.

It’s also now purpose-built to accommodate more women as they sleep, eat and do laundry in the space. There are now 24 rooms, with overflow space in the front.

Housing Minister Paulie Chinna and Tom Williams, president and CEO of NWT Housing Corporation, discuss the renovations.
Nick Pearce/NNSL photo

Tom Williams, president and CEO of Northwest Territories Housing Corporation, said the involvement of corporate entities such as De Beers is welcome but the Corporation will also be looking to Indigenous governments for support with future projects.

“We need all levels of government involved in housing, including Indigenous governments,” he said, adding there could be another project coming to Yellowknife between De Beers and the NWT Council of Disabilities although that agreement has not been completed yet.

Moving forward, he said vulnerable groups such as women and seniors, will be priorities for future housing projects.

“It’s something that we always strive (for), working in partnership. We have a huge demand for housing, affordable housing for the whole territory. The only way we can tackle the problem in the bigger scale is through partnership,” he said. “This is a prime example of partnership moving forward.”

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Nick Pearce

Nick Pearce is a writer and reporter in Yellowknife, looking for unique stories on the environment and people that make up the North. He's a graduate of Queen's University, where he studied Global Development...

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