The day shelter and sobering centre won’t be open until the spring.

That’s not good news for Florence Wedzin, who has been on the streets for the past six years.

“I want to cry right now because we need this,” she said. “We need it more than anybody. Winter is coming. Where are we going to sleep? I don’t want to freeze my feet again.”

Florence Wedzin, left, attended Monday’s municipal services committee meeting with Lydia Bardak, right. She’s been on the street for six years, and says without the sobering centre, winter is going to be difficult for Yellowknife’s vulnerable population.
Jessica Davey-Quantick/NNSL photo

Wedzin was standing outside city hall after attending Monday’s municipal services committee meeting, where council debated approving a permit that would allow a new combined sobering centre and day shelter to move into a building on 50 Street.

“I lost too many people this past year, throughout the winter,” said Wedzin.

The former sobering centre closed on Sept. 15. And while the new one is one step closer to opening after Monday’s city council meeting, city administrator Sheila Bassi-Kellett told council it wouldn’t be operational for months.

“There would need to be some substantive work done to the building before it could be occupied,” she said.

The construction plans are based on a review done by the fire marshal. The new space would include a day-shelter area as well as gender-segregated sleeping areas, washrooms and shower facilities.

The Department of Health and Social Services is looking for an interim solution until the new building is ready. Since it opened in July, the sobering centre has housed around 11 people per night.

“The department will continue to work with the City of Yellowknife to identify interim locations until the renovations are complete,” stated department spokesperson Damien Healy in an email to Yellowknifer.

He did not identify any locations that are being considered, but did add the current Safe Harbour Day Shelter will remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Wedzin said she was discouraged by council’s debate on the issue, which revolved around concerns expressed by local business owners that the new space would have a detrimental effect on the neighbourhood.

“They’re on our side, they say, but there’s always a but,” she said.

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