Yellowknife city council agreed unanimously to direct temporary federal money toward an array of community homelessness projects, but it didn’t come without criticism regarding how the program is laid out. 

At the Feb. 22 regular council meeting, the majority of council approved more than $1.8 million dollars from the Reaching Home: Canada’s Strategy to End Homelessness Fund for both Covid and non-Covid related community projects. 

Councillors Cynthia Mufandaedza, foreground, and Shauna Morgan and Mayor Rebecca Alty are pictured in 2019. On Feb. 22, Yellowknife city council approved more than $1.8 million in federal funding for a variety of programs.
NNSL file photo

Some councillors expressed dissatisfaction with the limitations of the federal funding program, which left them unable to help address the municipality’s long-term homelessness goals.

“I understand that this is temporary funding and that it’s supposed to be dealing with the impacts of Covid-19, but I just don’t see much in any of the things that are proposed here related to mitigating the impacts of Covid-19 and homelessness in our community,” Coun. Julian Morse said. “It just seems like in absence of being able to identify programs that achieve that, we’ve kind of gone to funding other things.

“It’s a bit difficult to reconcile this quite large amount of money that I think could be really well used in our community to solve some longstanding issues and get some people under roofs.”

Mayor Rebecca Alty said the Reaching Home Funding program, while welcome, has serious limitations that appeared to be made from the “ivory tower of Ottawa.”
NNSL file photo

Mayor Rebecca Alty, who holds a seat on the Community Advisory Board Committee on Homelessness, agreed with Morse and noted that bureaucrats in Ottawa devised the funding program. She said she also would have preferred to see money directed to housing projects.

“The federal government is creating policy from the ivory tower of Ottawa is a bit how I see this funding working,” Alty said. “They have very strict directives where you can use it for this funding but you can’t use it for this. It’s time sensitive and there’s no opportunity to roll funding over.

She also noted that funding couldn’t be used for homelessness projects already existing and the funding won’t be ongoing.

“By all means, I’ve been advocating the whole time to try to find actual housing projects but the funding isn’t designed to be able to create long-term projects,” the mayor said.

Coun. Stacie Smith, chair of the Community Advisory Board on Homelessness, said although recent federal funding came with restrictions, some of the projects approved this week attempt to get at the root causes of homelessness.
NNSL file photo

Coun. Stacie Smith said that while there were restrictions on the funding, the homelessness committee decided that monies could go to other areas to address homelessness beyond just housing.

“In terms of mitigating homelessness, doing that doesn’t often mean having a roof over one’s head,” she said. “We can provide as many groups as many apartments and places for people to say, but if we’re not getting to the root of why they’re in the situation that they’re in there will always continue to be homelessness. So we found other opportunities where we could put our energies, to be able to to assist them in those holistic methods that might reach them a lot better than the norm.”

Given that many of the street-involved people in Yellowknife are Indigenous, culturally appropriate programs could go a long way in helping them, Smith added.

“Considering that a vast majority of our population are Indigenous, these are items that they’re craving to have back in their lives,” she said. “So these are things that we wanted to put energy into and to have as a service for them.”

Fact file
Funded projects

-Yellowknives Dene First Nation – $370,438 for an on-the-land program and $100,000 for a community hunt  
-Housing First for Families – $376,000
-Housing First for Adults – $350,000
-Housing First for Youth – $175,000
-Homelessness Prevention and Diversion – $144,000
-An on-the-land breakfast program – $112,084
-Indigenous case management – $99,000
-Homelessness Prevention and Diversion – $75,000
-The Yellowknife Women’s Shelter Support – $25,000
-YWCA NWT’s Food Program – $10,000 
-Covid-19 cleaning supplies – $5,000

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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