A 10-year plan to end homelessness in the city is expected to cost $147 million. Questions remain on who exactly will be footing the bill. The city already funds programs such as Safe Ride, which picks up intoxicated persons and takes them somewhere safe. Some councillors have argued that the city should be spending taxpayers’ money on roads, ditches and sewers, not social programs. Northern News Services asked mayoral and city council candidates where they stand. Answers will be posted as we receive them.
Niels Konge, city council candidate
GNWT responsibility. The city can help if the GNWT is funding it, or the federal government. But the city's tax dollars should not be going to this.
Robin Williams, city council candidate
Increase, no, but stay on the course of the 10 year plan to end homelessness, yes. The GNWT and the previous council spent a substantial amount of time and effort on this issue. We have made commitments and I believe we should continue to fulfill these commitments.
William Gomes, city council candidate
This is our major social issue and all three levels of government are responsible to address this matter. At the city level, I would like to ensure that an adequate effort to increase the collaboration with our territorial and federal government, partners and stakeholders are ongoing and continuous. We must ensure that all levels of government are getting engaged to resolve the issue. I truly believe that increasing the number of shelters is not the complete solution to the addiction problem. Adding rehabilitation facilities within the shelter, for instance, may result in more positive outcomes than only providing a warm place to sleep and warm food to eat. Our businesses are diminishing, our tourists feel lack of safety, our parents feel uncomfortable of sending their children to the library and our citizens are trying to avoid visiting this certain part of the city due to the same social issue. In my opinion, an appropriate measure to address this social issue needs to be taken today rather than later. We, along with other levels of government must come forward to find the solution.
Bob Stewart, mayoral candidate
It is my primary concern to properly address this issue, and while it is a GNWT responsibility, it is a challenge and should be a primary concern for all Yellowknifers as well. It is the only way to transform this into a safe and prosperous city.
Cynthia Mufandaedza, city council candidate
Increased efforts must be continued in dealing with homelessness and addictions in our city. I would like to see council continue to work closely with partners such as the GNWT and other not for profit organizations.
Julian Morse, city council candidate
Ultimately, social issues are primarily a GNWT and federal responsibility, however, leadership at the municipal level has resulted in significant improvements over the last three years. I believe the municipality has a significant role to play in continuing to foster the multi-jurisdictional partnerships necessary to address these issues holistically. Simply throwing our hands in the air and saying this is someone else's problem is not acceptable. The city receives federal funding for homelessness initiatives. I strongly supported these initiatives, and will continue to do so, while continuing to ensure the GNWT and the feds fulfill their end of the bargain.
Rommel Silverio, city council candidate
Yes. Homelessness and addiction is not a one-man job. The city should continue to collaborate with the GNWT and various sectors in the community to deal with this on-going social issue. I think the city can help by increasing foot patrols and municipal enforcement presence downtown so that the residents feel safe at their homes, businesses can operate without nuisance, workers/employees feel safe going to work, and tourists can have a great experience and they feel safe downtown.
In my observation, the new sobering centre has decreased unnecessary trips to the hospital resulting in cost savings. Also, beds are saved for patients who need necessary medical attention. I support programs to encourage employment opportunities for the homeless. On the other hand, I hear dissatisfaction of its new location and collaboratively, I think it is important to continuously seek for a location that works for all.
In addition, I think that the outreach van hours of operation should be made available 24 hours a day or on an as when required basis outside its normal hours of operation.
Jerald Sibbeston, mayoral candidate
I would take responsibility for this issue to as great an extent as possible. The limitation is of course funding. I would seek to restructure funding from the GNWT for any future proposals beyond the 10 Year Plan for Homelessness. I would also increase the inclusion of the NWT Disabilities Council in the design of my Wet Shelter/Safe Injection Site pilot project that I have proposed at Bristol Pit. It will be a good way to see if we can manage our most in needs issues.
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/26/homeless-shelter-ottawa-gives-wine-to-alcoholics is an amazing article that is based on other European programs. We desperately need this similar type of program to draw the most affected of our homeless away from our tourist and nightlife areas. Please see my post here on my thoughts: facebook.com/JeraldSibbeston4AntiCorruptionMayorOfYellowknife/ and I have pinned my post on homelessness to the top of my page.
Mark Bogan, city council candidate
Currently employed at a homeless shelter indicates my passions for helping others.
Such employment has led me to research social programs with a proven track record in other countries that have improved their cities and communities. A wellness centre for the addicted is a major concern which I would approach the GNWT Justice and Social Service Committee to examine, and where practical, implement programs that have proven successful in other locations.
Edwin Castillo, city council candidate
Housing and health are typically territorial government and federal responsibilities; however, as it affects municipalities directly, it is a shared responsibility between the three levels of government. Many of the homeless for example, are resident from outside of Yellowknife in the NWT. Because of the higher costs and inadequate resources in their home communities, many of the homeless and addicted move to Yellowknife to improve their situation and to obtain relief from the services and programs only available the city. As Yellowknife residents cannot be fully burdened with the added costs, dealing with the growing homelessness and issues in the downtown core needs to be a joint collaboration between the governments with necessary input from affected business and organizations.
Adrian Bell, mayoral candidate
The GNWT and federal government are ultimately responsible for addressing homelessness, but the city can sometimes be more nimble and can pilot test new programs, demonstrating their usefulness, and then finding long-term funding from elsewhere. One example is the Homelessness Employment Program I brought forward in 2017. It is yielding great results for program participants and the community at large. I don’t think the GNWT would have tried something like that.
John Dalton, city council candidate
Council has to be involved in the solution of homelessness but the major costs should be born by senior government. Addictions are almost always a part of the issue and therefore dealing with these outcomes must be part of the solutions. In Yellowknife a large portion of those who are homeless are not original residents of Yellowknife but people who have come to the city for services not available in their home community. They came with these problems and therefore are much bigger than what Yellowknife can deal with by themselves. These issues will not solve themselves and if they are not dealt with they always get worse.
Stacie Smith, city council candidate
Downtown efforts are a significant portion of my platform. It is the responsibility of the city AND the GNWT to work together in the effort of fighting homelessness and addictions. Efforts need to be increased exponentially. Since the last election many of the candidates had mentioned providing more resources to the cause but since then little improvement has been made. Our present 10 year plan needs to be expedited as lives are at risk.
Shauna Morgan, city council candidate
The city needs to play a strong leadership role in ensuring all citizens are properly served, particularly those who are most vulnerable or marginalized. The city has to bring partners to the table, and continue to pressure the GNWT to fulfill its mandate. So far, one form of effective pressure has been to assist in getting a program off the ground but then hand it off to the GNWT. For example, in order to get the sobering centre off the ground while the GNWT searched for a long-term location, the city hosted the sobering centre at the YK Arena for the summer of 2017. Come fall, when the city needed to reclaim the arena for recreation programs again, the GNWT was under intense pressure to find a new location and continue the program, given its success.
Another effective program serving both the city’s needs and the needs of marginalized people has been the city’s Common Ground homeless employment program. Crews are hired to complete tasks such as street clean-up that improve the city, and give both crew members and other residents a greater sense of pride.
Dane Mason, city council candidate
In Portugal, a few years after making sweeping policy changes designed to assist people with substance abuse issues, the number of people with substance abuse issues in Portugal increased. They thought the policy changes might not be working. It turned out that just more people with these challenges were coming to an area where they could be treated fairly and deal with recovery. In another few years, the numbers started dropping.
This is similar to Yk’s position right now. With the only major homelessness supports in the territory, the city draws in people that need those supports. And although it’s a territorial issue, it affects Yellowknife specifically.
We need to be wary of scope creep, and make sure the territorial government is pulling its weight. But we also need to be part of the solution. Passing the buck is both morally wrong and fiscally irresponsible. The average cost of homelessness in Canada is $56,000 per person per year, and can climb up to $340,000 per person per year for some. And that’s the Canadian average - everything costs more up here. The costs of fair treatment, housing and supports are much lower.
One way to address this in a cost effective manner is to partner with the territorial government and NGOs to hold a recurring reverse trade show event. Reverse trade shows are common in the contracting and procurement world - picture a trade show, but instead of local contractors in the booths waiting to be talked to by representatives of government or industry, it’s the other way around. Now picture government services reps and NGOs in the booths instead, such as income assistance, shelter intake, housing first liaisons, support or counselling services, and access to rehab options.
Mix this with an already successful community event such as Rotary’s annual friendship breakfast, and we have a starting point for partnership, bridging the gap, actually reaching the people our programs are intended for, and continually adjusting our services - across governments - to meet the challenges ahead.
Rebecca Alty, mayoral candidate
I think that it’s important that the city continues to use tools and resources in the city’s control – such as donating land, tax incentives, etc – to access funds from a much larger pool of money from our partners at the GNWT and federal level. If elected mayor, I’m committed to working with all of our partners to ensure the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness continues to get implemented.
Chris Gillander, city council candidate
Homelessness and addiction are the shared responsibility of all levels of government and we need to work in tandem to curb the growing epidemic in Yellowknife. The city has put forward the Ten Year Plan but without funding from other levels of government, the plan cannot be seen through to the end.
Terry Testart, city council candidate
The city needs to partner with others to come up with solutions to address the social and infrastructure problems in the downtown. This is neither the city’s sole responsibility nor the GNWT’s. I believe any solution needs to be undertaken by both governments in partnership.
Josh Campbell, city council candidate
I firmly believe a majority of homelessness and addictions programs are with the Department of Health and Social Services, and Health Canada. We also need to work or have a dialogue with the Dene Nation, and YKDFN who have and access dollars for health programs. Lets not re-invent the wheel. The warming day shelter is a great new facility. We still have work however on better downtown bathroom facilities.
Steve Payne, city council candidate
I think as a city we’ve done enough. This is a Health and Social Services issue.