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GNWT to present new suggestions for day shelter location at city council meeting today

day shelter_web
The day shelter and sobering centre opened on 50th Street, right next to the Northern Lites Motel and across the street from the Northern News Services newspaper office. Ezra Black/NNSL photo.

Yellowknife city councillors are set to discuss possible day shelter locations at Monday’s Governance and Priorities Committee meeting. 

Shelter locations have been a contentious issue in recent weeks as the city seeks to make up for reduced capacity in the current sobering centre as a result of Covid restrictions. 

Last month, city council rejected the proposal to use the city-owned Mine Rescue building, formerly the Side Door youth drop-in centre, as a temporary shelter. 

The GNWT will present a list of possible day shelter locations following the rejected proposal to use the city-owned Mine Rescue building.
NNSL file photo

At Monday’s meeting, the committee will review nearly a dozen other possible locations, according to an agenda released last week. Some of the proposed shelters include the public library, the bowling alley, and various parking lots around the city with mobile trailers also known as ATCO buildings.

Health and Social Services department spokesperson Damien Healy said the locations are “simply ideas we are looking into.”

A group calling itself Concerned Yellowknife Residents for a Day Shelter Downtown is urging council to secure a shelter before winter hits. The group formed in the wake of the city’s declining the Mine Rescue Building on 49 Avenue. They now have almost 300 hundred members in their Facebook group.

In an open letter to city council the group said they are “upset that the City rejected the GNWT’s application without considering the perspectives of street-involved individuals, front line workers, medical professionals and concerned residents.”

Nick Souza and Neesha Rao, the group’s co-organizers, presented at last week’s City Council meeting with Emily Esau, a woman among the homeless population in Yellowknife.

Esau, originally from Inuvik, moved to Yellowknife in February. She said she “has been utilizing the facilities that are available to those of us that are homeless.”

Councillor Niels Konge called it “one of the most heartfelt, heart tugging presentations they’ve had at council ever.”

“We needed it and I appreciate it,” he said.

In his portion of the presentation Souza emphasized the importance of hearing the perspectives of those beyond council and the business community. 

“From our perspective there are other voices that should be heard in this consideration that didn’t seem to us that were heard during the Side Door deliberation,” he said. “This affects the whole community and certainly the people who depend on these services.”

The committee meets Monday afternoon and the GNWT will present the list of potential temporary day shelter locations then.