Homeless and Vulnerable population

Last modified: 
Thu, 05/28/2020 - 08:24

It’s our priority to protect the health and safety of all NWT residents.

To address the importance of providing those experiencing homelessness with safe spaces where they can self-isolate and practice social (physical) distancing, a response plan is in motion. 

On this page

Who is involved in the development and execution of the response plan?

This is an effort spanning all-of-government, with many service areas coming together to rise to this unique challenge. 

Non-Governmental Organizations also play a crucial role in our response. Partners include: 

  • Yellowknife Women’s Society
  • YWCA
  • NWT Disability Council
  • Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation
  • Side Door
  • Salvation Army

The City of Yellowknife is also involved in this work. 

What are the key components of the plan?

A network of shelters are key to the response: 

  • Aspen Apartments (Yellowknife)
    • A voluntary program that provides temporary self-isolation space for homeless individuals awaiting test results or who are sick. Aspen is not emergency housing for over housed/crowded living conditions, or people who have rooms in shelters that are equipped for self-isolation. 
  • Isolation Shelter (Previously the Yellowknife Sobering Centre/ Day Shelter - Yellowknife) 
    • A voluntary program providing a space for isolation of a core group of 30 high-risk individuals in the homeless community. 
  • Arnica Inn (Yellowknife)
    • A voluntary program providing safe isolation space and support for roughly 25 people experiencing homelessness at high risk for complications of COVID-19.  This includes individuals over age 70, those with underlying health conditions or comorbidities.  
  • Salvation Army Day Shelter (Yellowknife)
    • A temporary day shelter providing a safe space for the homeless community and filling the needs once presented by the sobering centre. Food, recreation, and socialization at a safe distance are provided. The hours of operation are 7:30am – 6:30pm.
  • Inuvik Warming Centre
    • An additional shelter space has been secured to assist the Inuvik Warming Shelter to enable physical distancing support isolation of those experiencing homelessness waiting for test results, or who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Are similar approaches being pursued in other NWT communities?

GNWT staff is also working with partners to develop response plans in other regional centres. These plans will look slightly different in each region, but the goal is to ensure safe isolation for those without a home, and support shelters in meeting the recommendations of the Chief Public Health Officer.

How are public health orders being met in these spaces?

As these shelters are considered essential services, they are exempt from the public health order that prohibits indoor gatherings. However, like businesses remaining open, there are strict infection prevention protocols in-place – like disinfection and hand-washing procedures – to reduce risk for everyone. 

Staff are updated regularly with the new directives and recommendations from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer. 

Is it mandatory for users to remain in the self-isolation shelters?

No, it is not mandatory for users to remain in the self-isolation shelters (Aspen Apartments, isolation shelter and Arnica Inn). 

The Salvation Army Day Shelter is temporarily performing the regular duties of the Yellowknife Day Shelter. Housing is not offered here, and it is not mandatory to stay or visit.   

What is provided for those accessing services?

In the efforts to avoid negative health implications such as withdrawal, and to help make users feel inclined to stay for their full duration, food and personal care items are provided. Alcohol and cigarettes are also provided upon request. Using a controlled schedule, each user is provided alcohol based on their individual need up to a daily maximum.

How is the health of shelter users monitored?

The Nurse Outreach Team, comprised of NWT registered nurses, have been designated to provide frontline health assistance to the shelters. The team makes daily medical in-person checks on each shelter’s users. Other than daily COVID-19 related checks from the team, there is no medical oversight where medication is distributed or stored. All individuals must be medically cleared to live at Aspen.  

Users in Aspen Apartments, as well as Arnica Inn are provided their own bedrooms with furniture, including a television and a phone. The Nurse Outreach team has each room’s phone number to get in touch if necessary. 

How are people referred to Aspen?

All users of Aspen are either awaiting test results, or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Aspen intakes are through the COVID-19 Clinic or Stanton. A referral form is then sent to Aspen staff, and an intake form is filled out. Transportation is then provided for the individual from the COVID-19 Clinic or Stanton to Aspen. 

How will people be referred to Arnica Inn?

People will self-identify and applications will be triaged by a physician. These individuals are users of the current shelter system in Yellowknife, and moving to Arnica will help promote safety of high risk individuals while also mitigating the issue of overcrowding in shelters. 

How will the response evolve?

New challenges will evolve throughout this crisis, and so too will the response.

Monitoring of shelters for the health, safety and well-being of staff and users will continue. We will continue engaging with our community partners to provide additional adequate services for vulnerable persons, and adjust what we currently have as required.