Julie Green, Yellowknife Centre MLA, is calling on the GNWT and the city to immediately address service gaps for community members left “out in the cold” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter addressed to health minister Diane Thom and Mayor Rebecca Alty, posted to Facebook Tuesday evening, Green says Yellowknife’s most vulnerable residents – men and women who are homeless or struggle with addictions – have been left high and dry following significant changes to the Day Shelter and Sobering Centre.
The NWT Disabilities Council-run centre has been repurposed to isolate 30 homeless individuals for 30 days.
With the centre now at capacity; the public library closed; and temporary day shelter at the Salvation Army, operated by the Health Authority, shut down as of Sunday, people most in need are being forgotten, wrote Green.
“It’s as if we have gone back in time,” stated Green.
She said concerned residents have been informing her that people are sitting outside of the Salvation Army in “the cold mornings with no access to the building … no home to go to, no day shelter, no library, no coffee shop.”
“In the midst of a global health emergency, these people, men and women, are sitting on the sidewalk while the rest of us addressed in this email self-isolate inside our homes,” continued Green.
Green said she’s learned that concerned citizens have been calling Yellowknife Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to attend to people who laying outside the building – unconscious or intoxicated.
“Where is EMS taking these people: to the hospital? I have heard that the RCMP are again picking up intoxicated people and sheltering them in cells,” the MLA wrote.
“No doubt there are good intentions to make this situation better, but when? The need is immediate and a response is needed immediately. We can’t provide safety for every other sector of our society and leave intoxicated people out in the cold, literally.”
In posting the letter online Tuesday, Green said it was her third attempt to get answers from Thom; and her first request for a response from Alty.