City votes to use federal money to build temporary structure for day shelter

The City of Yellowknife sign outside city hall. Photo by MyTrueNorthNow.com staff.
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The City of Yellowknife is seemingly moving ahead with its pick for a temporary day shelter, a proposal involving building a temporary structure on city land, funded by federal money.

An emergency meeting of the homelessness committee on Thursday voted to approve the releasing some of the grant from the federal government’s Reaching Home initiative for a temporary structure.

This allows the city to move forward with hiring a contractor to build a temporary structure, without the territorial government – who would be responsible for operating the day shelter – formally accepting the proposal.

The GNWT’s health department had proposed a location on 44th Street, near St. Patrick’s high school. But in an interview with 100.1 Moose FM, Mayor Rebecca Alty said there had been lots of support and also lots of opposition to that proposal.

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A temporary day shelter not built on city land could be appealed by a nearby business. That process would then get sent to the Development Appeal Board, which can take up to three months to decide, according to Mayor Rebecca Alty.

“It’s now getting cold, we need more space,” said Alty.

That’s why the city voted to go-ahead with the temporary structure proposal, Alty said in the meeting on Thursday.

“Then it can’t be appealed, which means we won’t face that three-month potential delay,” Alty said in an interview with 100.1 Moose FM.

The use of city sites, like the library and the pool had been previously rejected by city councillors. In a past interview with 100.1 Moose FM, Mayor Rebecca Alty said this was because there are already limited options for recreation with COVID-19, and the city wanted to keep those open.

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A temporary structure would avoid using any of the existing buildings, and would just be placed on city land. 

In the meeting on Thursday, four locations were proposed.

  • the parking area or grassy area at the southern end of Somba K’e Park;
  • the Fieldhouse south parking lot;
  • the asphalt area immediately adjacent to the Niven tennis courts; and
  • the grassy area at Fritz Theil Park, adjacent to Franklin Avenue.

 

“Three of the locations I see as non-starters,” said Councillor Julian Morse in the meeting on Thursday. “They aren’t in the downtown core.”

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Only the Somba K’e Park option is in the downtown area, which has been one of the biggest considerations for a day shelter location throughout the decision process. Being downtown puts the day shelter closer to other services and over-night shelters.

The existing permanent day shelter and sobering centre has reduced capacity due to COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions. To meet capacity needs, territorial officials said a temporary day shelter is needed until at least March 31, 2021.

The GNWT is presenting a proposal for the 44th Street location on Monday, and have not approved the move to construct a temporary day shelter structure on city land.

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