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'Not going there:' Yellowknife council leaves SideDoor shelter proposal on cutting room floor

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

City council put to rest any possibility of a GNWT-managed special day shelter facility being leased at the city-owned Mine Rescue Building on 49 Avenue Monday night.

Only Councillors Julian Morse and Shauna Morgan voted against putting the idea to rest.

Council also defeated a motion to leave the door open for shelter space if the GNWT is unable to find a suitable location. Mayor Rebecca Alty, and Councillors Morse and Morgan were in the minority in that vote.

Officials from the Department of Health and Social Services expressed its interest in leasing the former Side Door Youth Ministries location at an Aug. 11 governance and priorities committee meeting. Council heard that the department is hoping to run a shelter for 30 to 50 people between October and March 2021 to make up for limited space in the day shelter and sobering centre as a result of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. Officials pointed out that it has been very difficult finding adequate space to make up for the need.

Some councillors remain worried about an emergency situation arising in the winter where people experiencing homelessness don't have the shelter they need to get through the winter months.

"The idea of refusing the application outright might put us in a difficult position if the GNWT can't find an alternative location for this site," said Coun. Julian Morse. "I would like to keep our options open. I think that I would be amenable to approving this potentially if GNWT can't find another site.

"Being in a situation where we don't have the additional capacity in the winter is not a situation where I want to see community in."

Morse said he would also be open to the site if the GNWT provided a neighbourhood mitigation strategy for the purpose.

Other councillors saw the situation as as done deal that the Mine Rescue Building would be a bad spot for additional shelter space, especially after the negative response from area business owners last week.

"There are lots of places where this could be and I think it was just easy for the GNWT to get a lease, move them in and not do much work and it is done and done," said Coun. Niels Konge. "I don't support a day shelter in that location in our city. I don't want to leave that door even unlocked. I want it locked, shut, cement over it. Not going there."

Mayor Rebecca Alty said that the city still has an interest in assisting the GNWT locate more shelter space. Some discussion at recent council meetings have been to use exploration-style tent shelters that could be set up on city properties, however these details are yet to be developed in detail.

"City staff still are working with the GNWT to find a solution with the option of having temporary buildings where the city willing to host on our our last one of our parking lot," Alty said.

The issue may come forward to council to revise the zoning bylaw to allow such services, she said.