The Yellowknife Women’s Society is proposing to turn the Arnica Inn into a transitional housing complex.
Transitional housing is meant to bridge the gap from homelessness to permanent housing by offering structure, supervision and support.
On Monday, Yellowknife Women’s Society board member Monique Robitaille pitched the idea to council, which must approve the proposal.
The inn, located on Franklin Avenue, could be transformed into 42 transitional housing units, which would contribute to the city’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, Robitaille said.
“Three-hundred and thirty-eight people have been identified as homeless in Yellowknife and we currently have 160 on a waiting list for Housing First,” she said. “We would love to see a 100 per cent eradication of homelessness in Yellowknife. I know the city is working on this as well and hope to open 80 units, and this facility would provide half of that.”
The complex would consist of single occupancy rooms with 24-hour security. It would also act as a central hub for the women’s society.
“The complex would take a harm reduction approach as opposed to an abstinence (approach),” said Robitaille. “When it comes to drinking, we would allow people to make their own choices while giving the option to escape.”
City councillors were generally supportive of the proposed plan but Coun. Stacey Smith wondered how the complex would affect the neighbourhood and worried it would be perceived as a “slum.”
“We’d be providing support, security and staff to mitigate that and to diminish that,” said Robitaille. “I think we have a lot of work to do to about the narrative about how these people are viewed. They’re not just drunk people, they’re human beings with trauma and the community needs to see that.”
The society is currently seeking funding from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the GNWT and other sources for the project. The building wouldn’t require much investment to turn it into transitional housing, said Robitaille.
The Yellowknife Women’s Society is attempting to gauge support for the plan. Chair Bree Denning has been speaking to residents near the site and getting feedback.
A letter was also sent out to residents within 200 hundred metres of the building.
On the evening of May 27, Yellowknife City Council unanimously voted to give the YKWS the conditionally permitted use permit for the housing.