The YWCA transitional housing project on 54 Street is on track to be completed this summer with families expected to move in in August.
When finished the project will include four floors with 21 housing units to serve families in special need. The building will also provide program and office space for staff and host its youth programs, Dude’s Club and GirlSpace programming, in a central location – essentially replacing the Rockhill Apartments that burned down in 2018. Other support programs include counselling, trauma recovery and support programs, budget guidance, literacy and skills upgrading, job training and placement services, food programming and youth empowerment programs on site.
“The fantastic thing about this project is that it really puts us back into the model for the YWCA that works best for us and for our clients,” explained Kate Reid, YWCA president. “We will have on-site support for our families. We have wraparound services, we have folks who are transitioning out of maybe a tight spot into a more secure spot with these shared services. We offer job training and we offer staff support.”
Most of the core foundational features of the structure have been completed with workers now involved in drywalling, painting and flooring.
Reid said having staff on-site during regular business hours in a ‘one-stop shop’ setting to help family clients get core shelter and access to an array of services will be the most important aspects, which has been more difficult to manage since the 2018 fire.
“We’ve found that it makes a world of difference for clients who don’t have to necessarily travel around town looking for help,” she said.
Reid said although the need for family emergency housing fluctuates, at the moment there are about 150 families across the city who are in need of family support service and who have been dispersed across several locations since the fire. At that time, more than 30 units were taken off the Yellowknife housing market.
“We help people who are our direct clients but also people who are in housing arrears and struggling to make rent.” Reid said. “Our housing staff does phenomenal work every single day, but we have more demand for our programming than we can deliver.
“Even though this project is filling a (housing) gap for us as a service provider in housing, there continues to be high demand for YWCA housing services.”
The transitional housing building, which is still unnamed, is located next to Lynn’s Place.
Both lots are owned by YWCA. The latter building provides emergency shelter for women and children who may need to escape dangerous or violent living situations, and has a slightly smaller size of 18 units.
Several groups provide funding
Reid said that the YWCA has been grateful that funding for the project has come into being within the last month. Last November, the organization received $12.5 million from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Co-investment Fund. The City of Yellowknife also provided $5 million from its federally sourced Rapid Housing Initiative money and also granted a five-year tax abatement for the property which will equal just under $450,000 in support.
The YWCA was also able to source funds from its own account and attain other contributions from the Yellowknife Community Foundation and other local donors.
Another remaining obstacle for the project includes ensuring each unit is fully furnished. The YWCA launched a campaign in March called ‘Welcome Home’ (https://www.ywcanwt.ca/welcomehome) which will raise money for furnishings for the apartment units. Reid said the current goal is to reach $250,000 and is seeking different levels of sponsorship. To date the organization has raised about $70,000. More information can be found on the YWCA website that includes a gift catalog where items can be selected by donors.
Mayor Rebecca Alty said in a statement on Tuesday that she expects to tour the facility in May but that when completed the structure will provide an important milestone for the city in terms of addressing a wide need of housing shortages.
“I look forward to the grand opening of the new housing complex later this summer,” she said. “Through this new building, 21 more families in Yellowknife will have access to safe, affordable housing. We still need more, but it’ll be a welcome addition to the community and I’d like to thank the YWCA board and staff, as well as all of the funders, employees working on site, and everybody who is making this project a reality.”