A number of tenants at Crestview Apartment building are frustrated with what they see as deteriorating conditions since residents from Housing First moved in last year.
Kimberly Paul and her 11-year-old son Dylan Picard reside in one of the building’s units on 52 Avenue near 49 Street. Paul said she fully supports the program which houses people who would otherwise be homeless.
However, she says what she’s experienced in the past year in the building has her questioning how the program is being run.
“They’re coming off the streets. They don’t have life skills. The people who have these (Housing First) units let their friends come in because they get free booze or drugs out of the deal,” she said. “If Northview Apartment REIT (owners of the Crestview building) is going to be giving Housing First so many apartments, then they should just give them the whole building.”
Paul added she does not want her son around people who are not respecting the building and the people who live in it. Her son said he sees things on a daily basis that he feels an 11-year old simply should not have to see.
“People fighting, people urinating, smoking,” he said. “It makes me mad because the families who live here have to pick up their garbage. It’s disgusting.”
Another woman who lives in the building did not want her name used, but told Yellowknifer she too understands the need for the Housing First program, but feels the Yellowknife Women’s Society, which runs the program, is not listening to the concerns of other tenants.
“I asked their executive director why they didn’t integrate these people into their living conditions before just dropping them anywhere,” she said. “Why didn’t they let the existing tenants know just who was coming into their building?”
The woman said she wanted to attend the society’s monthly board meeting to air her concerns, but was told those meetings are not open to the public.
Both tenants who spoke to Yellowknifer said they found out Housing First residents were moving in through word of mouth last year. They never received any official notification from Housing First or the landlord, they said. Both admit they can’t definitively link the problems that have arisen in the past year to Housing First, but feel conditions in the building have worsened since the program rolled out.
Bree Denning, executive director of the Yellowknife Women’s Society, stated in an email residents are encouraged to bring forth concerns the same way that they would for any other tenant.
“That is, by notifying (Northview Apartment REIT) and building security, and in extreme cases, the RCMP,” she stated. “Our staff follows up on all complaints we receive. Our participants have home visits at least once per week, but staff often visit two or more times per week.”
Denning would not say how many Housing First tenants live in the Crestview building citing privacy concerns. She did confirm that four buildings in the city are currently used for Housing First tenants.
She stated that like any other non-governmental organization, Yellowknife Women’s Society board meetings are not open to the public. She added anyone could have attended their annual general meeting in September. Denning said no one brought forth Housing First concerns or complaints at that meeting.
Housing First, which began last year, costs about $450,000 a year to run, according to Denning. About two-thirds of that funding comes from the federal government while the GNWT picks up the rest.
City councillor Linda Bussey, chair of city’s community advisory board on homelessness, said she was surprised to hear that tenants could only voice their concerns about Housing First to the society’s board of directors once a year. She added she plans to ask Housing First administrators why there isn’t a more robust complaint process.
Neither Northview Apartment REIT or the RCMP had responded to questions about issues at the Crestview Apartment building by press time.