Lynn’s Place, the YWCA-run transitional housing facility downtown, may see an expansion as the YWCA seeks to construct a new building that would more than double the facility’s capacity.
Hawa Dumbuya-Sesay, executive director of YWCA NWT, submitted an application for funding in late December after an announcement from the federal government calling for housing project proposals.
She said she should know whether it has been approved by the end of the month.
As it stands, Lynn’s Place offers 18 units for women and children in need of safe housing. Rent – $900 per month for a single unit, $1,580 for a two-bedroom and $1,750 for a three-bedroom unit – is set using the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) affordability guidelines. Tenants can benefit from the facility for up to three years.
The new building would make available an additional 21 units to house women, children and spouses.
Lynn’s Place is staffed with support workers who help clients with employment applications and in securing income support. Employees run cultural programs such as sewing circles, cooking programs, literacy activities and life skill workshops. Tenants also have access to counselling services.
If approved, Dumbuya-Sesay said the organization will have 12 months to construct the new space.
“One of the biggest issues that we continue to address is the need for housing for families,” she said. “Being able to build a structure like that would reduce some of the demand and help take people off waitlists.”
Julie Green, MLA for Yellowknife Centre, expressed her support for the project in a letter to the federal government last month.
“We know that there are long waiting lists for affordable housing throughout Yellowknife,” Green told NNSL Media. “If you’re not on a waiting list, you’re paying market rent, which is steep for someone who is low-income.”
“The prospect of an additional 21 units is very promising,” she said. “I am hoping that they are successful.”
Green admits that in the scope of how many people are on waitlists for low-income housing, the 21 units “doesn’t represent a large amount.”
“Less than 10 per cent,” she said.
However, YWCA clients who may be seeking housing to leave an abusive relationship, for example, “is not necessarily the same as someone on a low-income housing waitlist,” Green said. In that sense, the new space is “targeting people who need supports,” and “not an apples to apples comparison.”
“Any number of additional units is helpful,” she said.
On Jan. 18, the YWCA NWT sent out a press release stating that family and child homelessness is “at crisis levels.”
In it, Dumbuya-Sesay said the organization is launching a campaign over the next several weeks to raise awareness about family homelessness in the NWT.
“The primary cause of homelessness is a lack of affordable housing and the key to addressing homelessness is to give homeless families an affordable place to live,” Dumbuya-Sesay said. “During the Covid-19 pandemic, shelters were created for homeless individuals to isolate but there were no options for families who did not have suitable housing to self-isolate or maintain social distancing.”
In Yellowknife alone the YWCA fields weekly housing inquiries and has a waitlist with more than 50 families.
In the coming year, Dumbuya-Sesay expects the issue will worsen as pandemic-related job losses and evictions continue.
“Although we are doing everything we can, it’s not enough,” she said. “We need to work together, strengthen our partnerships and encourage investment that will help ensure the most vulnerable people in our community have a safe place to live which is the care, compassion and basic human needs that NWT residents and families deserve.”