All services at the Combined Day and Sobering Centre in Yellowknife are suspended until further notice, the NWT Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA) said in a news release on Sept. 11.
Staffing shortages spurred the total suspension of services, just two days after the centre announced it was ending day services, though the overnight sobering centre was to remain open.
It’s not yet known how long the service suspension will last.
The suspensions come just days after chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola said 19 street involved individuals and 10 shelter employees became infected with COVID-19, a situation that could lead to “severe COVID-19 health outcomes and societal disruption.”
Centre operator the NWT Disabilities Council (NWTDC) notified the NTHSSA about the closure in the late afternoon of Sept. 11, the authority said.
In a tweet following the NTHSSA announcement, Health Minister Julie Green said the centre’s closure “sends us right back to 2018 before these services were in place and leaves the homeless population with only overnight shelters supplemented with food during the day at Salvation Army.”
The NTHSSA said it is working closely with the NWTDC and the Department of Health and Social Services and has ramped up requests for support with the Department of Municipal And Community Affairs, the City of Yellowknife, and GNWT Housing and requested “urgent collaborative actions” to address the service gap.
The authority said it is currently unable to establish and staff an emergency shelter service due to capacity constraints related to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in Yellowknife and other regions.
Services at the Salvation Army and Women’s Shelter aren’t affected and are still accessible. The NTHSSA is working with the Salvation Army to coordinate a daytime meal service.
For residents who want to help, the NTHSSA requests that unvaccinated residents get vaccinated as they are less likely to get sick with COVID-19.
The sobering centre was listed as a COVID-19 exposure location Sept. 12.
Anyone who was at the 50 Street location from Sept. 9 until it closed on Sept. 11 must immediately self-isolate and contact Public Health to arrange for COVID-19 testing.
The order applies whether or not people who were the centre have been vaccinated or not.
If it’s not possible for some people to safely isolate away from others they should contact the COVID-19 Secretariat at 867-446-4863 to arrange for safe isolation.