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Arnica Inn transition hits roadblock

Anneka Westergreen, and Monique Robitaille, board members of the Yellowknife Women's Society spoke to Committee members on Monday and laid out their plan to turn Arnica Inn on Franklin to a a transitional housing complex. Brett McGarry/ NNSL Photo
The Yellowknife Women's Society's plan to turn the Arnica Inn on Franklin Avenue into a transitional housing complex has been stalled due to lack of funding and commitment from the GNWT, according executive director Bree Denning. Brett McGarry/NNSL photo

The plan to turn the Arnica Inn on Franklin Avenue into transitional housing units to help those affected by homelessness is currently stalled due to a lack of funding commitments.

The initiative to convert the inn into 42 transitional housing units was approved by city council at the end of May, via a conditional use permit.

The Yellowknife Women's Society (YKWS), which is spearheading the project, has had trouble with securing its funding, according to the group's executive director Bree Denning.

"We are still trying to find the funding to make this project possible," stated Denning. "We have an application in to CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) co-investment for up to 75 per cent of the funding."

This application is for roughly $2.5 million. Denning said she is unsure how much the CMHC might give to the society. The inn itself is worth $3 million, she said.

Denning said they were also hoping to receive "a significant amount of the remainder" of the funding, to the tune of $600,000, from the territorial government before the election began so they could begin the project before fall while waiting for federal funding.

But that did not happen.

"With no commitment from the GNWT, we could not move forward with the project – we will be continuing to seek a commitment after the election in the hopes of being able to make this project a reality, and to follow up with CMHC, but it is now not likely to move forward until the spring."

Denning said the society lobbied the GNWT for funds but was not able to get a commitment before the writ dropped for the upcoming election.

"We approached every department that has a mandate for social change," she said.

Funding from the city

On Sept. 23, Denning went before council and asked the city for $50,000 from next year's budget to help the society purchase the Arnica Inn.

"I'm here today to ask for a funding commitment from the city to assist us in moving this project forward and set an example for the territorial and federal governments because this project is important to us," she said.

The YKWS has been active in talking with all MLAs about the project and has brought together a group of concerned citizens to solicit donations from companies and individuals.

Since the YKWS is applying for funding through the CMHC, they do not qualify for the federal government's Reaching Home: Canada's Homelessness Strategy, which is part of a federal plan to cut Canada's homeless population in half by 2027-28.

The Arnica Inn project would supply half of the desired units under the city's ten-year plan to end homelessness, said Denning.