At-risk people who have signed up for a 30-day quarantine at Yellowknife’s Day Shelter and Sobering Centre amid the COVID-19 crisis – many of whom are homeless and struggle with addictions – are being supplied alcohol as part of a current program introduced at the NWT Disabilities Council-run centre.
Community advocates in Yellowknife have long called on the territorial government to implement a managed alcohol program for the city’s most vulnerable.
Now it’s happening, at least temporarily, at the joint day shelter and sobering centre, according to the NWT Disabilities Council.
“With controlled distribution of alcohol and no access to illegal drugs, the people we support are telling us how they feel healthier than they have years,” stated Alannis McKee, director of programs at the NWT Disabilities Council, in an email to NNSL Media.
The Day Shelter and Sobering Center was re-purposed last week — essentially becoming an isolation centre for around 30 residents.
“By housing 30 of the most vulnerable homeless adults in an isolated context, we are able to keep these individuals safe from the virus and decreases the need for hospitalization and health resources during a time when our system is already very strained,” stated McKee.
For the downtown shelter, which usually supports up to 60 people, the spread of Covid-19 made social distancing an unreasonable reality — it simply wasn’t possible to the keep the shelter running as usual, wrote McKee.
That ultimately led to the 30-day quarantine — and the opening of the GNWT-run day shelter at the Salvation Army.
That temporary shelter, which operates separately from the Salvation Army, and its usual 7 p.m. to 7 p.m. shelter, was shut down on the weekend after reports of a fight.
The shelter has since reopened, the government’s press secretary confirmed to NNSL Media on Thursday.
With it closed over the weekend and the Day Shelter and Sobering Centre at capacity, many were left with nowhere to go at a crucial time.
The NWT Disabilities Council, which routinely combats the spread of communicable diseases among its clients, said planning for Covid-19 measures happened well before the virus hit the territory.
“Prior to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak being declared a pandemic, our organization was already working internally and closely with government partners to develop a comprehensive emergency pandemic response plan,” stated the news release.
“Our staff and service users are feeling secure from the virus and are keeping each other strong as we continue to face uncertainty in these extraordinary times.”