Skip to content

Officials say majority of homeless transported from Yellowknife during wildfires

Unhoused residents of Yellowknife are being tracked by the GNWT as they are moved out of Yellowknife.
Premier Caroline Cochrane says she drove around Yellowknife on Thursday, Aug. 17 to locate individuals living on the streets who were unaware of the evacuation order. She enlisted the help of an unidentified man from the Sahtu. Black Press file photo

Unhoused residents of Yellowknife are being tracked by the GNWT as they are moved out of the city.

An update was presented during an evening press conference Aug. 20.

Emergency management officer Jennifer Young said the type of supports for these residents sent south depends on the evacuation centre they arrive at.

NT RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Matt Halstead said police have not encountered people living on the street since the evacuation took effect. He added police have not forced shelter users to leave, but based on current evidence most have done so.

“We’re here on the ground,” he said. “If people have concerns (and want) well-being checks on people, we are willing to do so.

“I can’t guarantee we will be able to find them, but we’ll do our best to find them here in Yellowknife.”

Premier rounds up unhoused

On Aug. 19, Premier Caroline Cochrane said she had spent the entirety of Thursday driving around Yellowknife and locating unhoused people, noting her past experience in social work meant she knew who a lot of them were.

“We worked really closely with the homeless shelters in Yellowknife to make sure the homeless people were taken to the evacuation centres,” said Cochrane. “My heart is with those people. I worked in that field for 20 years.”

From her past experience, Cochrane said she knew the majority of people who live on the streets of Yellowknife do not make use of the shelters.

From 8 a.m. until after midnight, Cochrane and an unhoused man from the Sahtu drove around the city to all the major hangouts. They were able to recruit nine other people to spread the word. By 12:30 a.m., 13 people had reached the evacuation centre at Sir John Franklin High School. By Friday morning, the premier said they were flown out.

“We were going into to a lot of places I normally would not go -- under buildings, into bushes," said Cochrane. "So I really have to give a shout out to homeless people as well, because without the support of that young man I’m not sure we would have rounded up as many people as possible.

“I’m hopeful that the vast majority of people who were on the streets have been evacuated.”

Cochrane added Cam Lake MLA Caitlin Cleveland and a number of support workers were also making the rounds before they flew out on Friday and Saturday. The Salvation Army has also done checks.

READ MORE: Communities rush to guard perimeters from approaching wildfires

About the Author: Eric Bowling

Read more