In an open letter that was circulated on Sept. 13, Health Minister Julie Green is asking for Yellowknife residents’ support during a trying time.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in Yellowknife, which has significantly affected the underhoused community with Sobering Centre and day shelter closures, the GNWT and Green are hoping to convert the former downtown Legion building at 4709 Franklin Ave. into a temporary emergency shelter.

The shelter would give the street-involved community a much needed warm place to go during the fast-approaching winter season. Green states that this emergency shelter “must happen by the end of October.”

With regards to resident support, the minister, in response to Yellowknifer, asks specifically for those in the immediate area of the shelter to be consulted to engage in a collaborative process “in hopes of working to address any concerns.”

“As opposed to submitting a development appeal which would stop this dead in its tracks until well after the cold weather sets in,” she said. “We are willing to work with residents to address their concerns. We will set up dedicated points of contact to highlight and solve issues quickly once operating. We will create a good neighbour committee to ensure that the department is responsive to residents’ and businesses’ concerns, and offer continuous review and improvement when needed.”

Green asks local citizens to make their voices heard regarding the temporary shelter, acknowledging the 500 members of the ‘Concerned Yellowknife Residents for a Day Shelter Downtown” Facebook group.

“Everybody counts, and we want to show the community who we can count on to support these types of projects,” said Green. “We believe Yellowknife is a caring and compassionate community that wants to ensure that the city’s vulnerable residents are supported and have access to the services they need. Until a more permanent facility is in place, we need the help of Yellowknife residents to establish a temporary solution. We are asking you to be generous with your support for the few options that are available right now.”

The Legion building was one of three potential sites, but in the minister’s letter it was deemed “the only one that will work,” as “there are no other options left to explore.”

One of the listed reasons for this location is that it’s within walking distance of the downtown core and each emergency site.

Day shelter staff and medical services are also closely available to the Legion building, which will help those who acquire COVID-19 symptoms to get tested and self-isolate when necessary.

Also according to the letter, the building is “large enough to accommodate around 60 people and requires minimal renovations.”

On top of providing a location for the homeless population of Yellowknife, Green also notes that this development, with the support of citizens, can create a kind and meaningful act of reconciliation.

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