Julie Green: Temporary Day Shelter

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Yellowknife — December 2, 2021

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Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce the temporary day shelter will open soon at the site of the former visitor’s center in Yellowknife. The day shelter is vital to keeping residents experiencing homelessness safe during the depths of winter.

Mr. Speaker, the need for a temporary day shelter in Yellowknife arose from the public health order to physically distance indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. This order, while critical to keeping all residents safe, has reduced capacity at the day shelter and sobering center on 50th Street, meaning that many individuals who need that service are unable to rely on finding space available during the cold weather.

The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority has been delivering additional temporary day sheltering services since the beginning of the pandemic. This service protects the health and safety of members of the community who are experiencing homelessness with shelter, bathrooms, food, laundry facilities and program navigation.

Mr. Speaker, providing this essential service is an important component of this government’s commitment to reconciliation. The City of Yellowknife’s point-in-time count data collected in 2021 shows a significant overrepresentation of Indigenous people. Of those surveyed, 91 percent identify as Indigenous, compared to just 23 percent of the total Yellowknife population. This data also tells us that 62 percent of the homeless population had at least one parent who attended residential school, and 19 percent attended residential school themselves. We cannot ignore the tragic legacy of residential schools whose damaging effects are still felt today. Caring for and providing essential services to people experiencing homelessness and battling addictions is part of facing that legacy and advancing reconciliation.

Despite the importance of this service, however, there have been significant challenges to secure a suitable option. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to advise that through a concerted effort to find a solution, we secured the temporary day shelter modular through a partnership with the private sector.

Contractors offered the use of their modular work camp units following the completion of the Tłı̨chǫ All Season Road.  These units have been placed on the former Northern Frontier Visitors Centre lot. Use of the lot is made possible by a declaration of a local State of Emergency by my colleague Minister Thompson, as Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs.

The temporary day shelter will open in this location in the coming days and will provide safety and basic services to meet the needs of members of the community who are experiencing homelessness. 

The goal is to secure the required municipal permits for this shelter to remain in operation until the completion of the permanent Wellness and Recovery Centre in early 2024.

Mr. Speaker, the opening of this temporary facility illustrates the importance of collaboration and is an example of what can be accomplished when we collectively commit to the needs of all residents, including those experiencing homelessness and addiction. I wish to extend my gratitude to Minister Thompson for using the Emergency Management Act to ensure timely access to the site; Kavanaugh Waste Management for notifying us of the camp-unit option; Kiewit Construction for helping get the units on site; and local contractors for their work to prepare the units for occupancy. I also want to thank staff from the department and the health and social services authority for their tireless work to find a suitable alternative for the temporary day shelter.

Without the efforts of these individuals, we would not have been able to make this solution a reality, Mr. Speaker.

I would also like to recognize the City of Yellowknife for making the Yellowknife Community Arena available for use while the Visitor’s Centre site is being prepared.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank those community members who have voiced their support for this important work.  The GNWT shares their commitment to the provision of respectful and dignified services for all residents. 

The temporary shelter represents another step in the path towards finding a permanent location for these services.  We are working diligently on the design of the permanent Wellness and Recovery Centre and will continue to look for support from the community members to make it a reality.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, and certainly not least, I want to acknowledge the good work done by all shelters, including Inuvik, Hay River and Fort Simpson, to address and overcome challenges presented by COVID-19. Especially in my thoughts right now are clients and staff impacted by the recent fire at the Inuvik Warming Centre. I appreciate the efforts to relocate these clients and ensure services continue. The perseverance shown by shelter staff, across the territory, is commendable and I thank you for your dedication.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.