A new option to locate additional temporary day shelter space has been identified by the Government of the Northwest Territories, according to the City of Yellowknife.
Debbie Gillard, clerk for the city, confirmed in an email on Wednesday that the GNWT and municipality have identified the federal public works building at 5009-44 Street as a potential site to provide needed space.
The GNWT has applied for a special care facility in the building, she said the two orders of government have been working to find a solution to allow the Department of Health and Social Services to run day shelter programming.
Since July, when city staff identified the department that there was a request for proposal at the Mine Rescue Building, the GNWT has been trying to find additional space for street-involved people to make up for Covid-19 related restrictions placed on the day shelter and sobering centre.
It has been estimated that between 30 to 50 people will require day shelter programming due to the overflow.
Council first considered a GNWT proposal to provide a temporary lease into March 2021 at the city-owned Mine Rescue Building – formerly the location of the Side Door Youth Centre on 49 Avenue – on Aug. 11.
Councillors then rejected this proposal at the regular council meeting on Aug. 25 after nearby businesses and property owners strongly opposed the idea.
In September, GNWT department representatives came back to council in order to notify them of a list of properties they were interested in pursuing – which included the Yellowknife Catholic School-owned Aurora College property on Franklin Avenue between Coyote’s Bistro and the Lahm Ridge building. Council at that time had shown favour for the college location.
The list at the time did not include the latest federal property.
Gillard stated, however, that there remains a process to get confirmation of the location which will lead into November, provided council approves.
“The application will go through the (city’s) development permitting process which includes notification of adjacent property owners,” she stated. “They (property owners) will have 14 days in which to make comments or express their concerns to the city.”
Gillard noted that the special care facility is a conditionally permitted use in the area, so it has to be presented to city council for approval.
“Preliminary comments received from adjacent owners will be brought forward to the Governance and Priorities Committee for consideration at the Nov. 2 meeting and ultimately approval by Council on Nov. 9,” she added.
Development Appeal Board
Following an approval by council, the development permit will be publicly posted.
“Any persons claiming to be adversely affected by the development may appeal to the Development Appeal Board, in accordance with the Community Planning and Development Act,” Gillard added.
Nick Sowsun, a homelessness advocate and co-organizer of a Facebook group that was created during the process of finding a location called Concerned Yellowknife residents for a Day Shelter Downtown, said that he understood letters had gone out to adjacent property owners on Wednesday.
While he is in support of the building at face value, he is frustrated that the process is now dragging late into the fall.
“The location checks most of the boxes for us in that it is downtown, it is an actual building and not a trailer or a tent,” he noted. “It is also reasonably close to other services that the street-involved people rely on. We would be happy with this location if city approved it.”
He added though that it is not positive that only one location has been identified this late in the game.
“We are frustrated with how long it has taken and disappointed there was not more than one option brought forward,” he added.
“If council is against this proposal I think we are in really trouble. We are now getting close to winter and this proposal will involve consulting with adjacent businesses and will take a couple of weeks to vote. If they vote no at that point not another option and we’re deep into the winter.”
NNSL Media reached out to the GNWT as well as a representative from Public Services and Procurement Canada to learn about the condition of the building and the federal government’s involvement in the process.