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YWCA signs contract for family extension of Housing First program

Mayor Mark Heyck, left, and Northwest Territories Michael McLeod, watch as YWCA of Yellowknife executive director Lyda Fuller signs a contract to administer the city's Housing First for families program at city hall on Friday. Shane Magee/NNSL photo

The YWCA of Yellowknife plans to house up to 12 families facing homelessness by next March through an expansion of the city's Housing First program.

The YWCA will administer the program on behalf of the city with $86,680 from the federal government.

This particular funding will be a first since Housing First so far has only addressed single people, said YWCA executive director Lyda Fuller at a contract signing ceremony at city hall on Friday.

Traditionally, housing support has meant a person must address addiction or mental health issues first before securing a home. Housing First turns that around, first placing people in a housing unit and then offering support services. It has shown success in other parts of the country.

The city launched the first part of its Housing First program for single individuals last fall. It's run by the Yellowknife Women's Society.

Fuller said Housing First for families will target single parents with children or couples with children.

“I'm anticipating some of the families we may be helping with this are not currently together, so we may be helping get kids from child welfare and working with those agencies to stabilize the family and get them back together,” she said in an interview.

Families will be screened through a vulnerability assessment tool, which uses a series of factors including age, health and time spent homeless. The rating from the tool is used to decide who will be placed in housing.

Fuller said one of the first things she needs to do is hire another staff member.

“I'm hoping that can happen fairly quickly and that we can start taking in two or three families per month until we get to 12 and then support them,” she said.

The families will be placed in various apartment buildings. Fuller said the YWCA has a good relationship with Northview Apartment REIT, formerly Northern Property REIT. Families will start with the lease in their name.

“We will be supporting them in making sure they're good tenants and meeting their obligations, conflict management and other things,” she said.

The new money is primarily coming from the federal government through its national Homelessness Partnering Strategy, though Fuller hopes to get funding and donations from other sources.

The relatively small dollar amount means YWCA will use some of its existing staff to help the families, she said.

The funding expires in March and Fuller said she hopes the federal government extends it.

Northwest Territories Liberal MP Michael McLeod, who attended the event on behalf of the federal government, said a national housing strategy is being developed and could be released this fall.

“We're hoping that we're going to have a stream of funding that communities can draw from for homelessness and other things,” he told Yellowknifer.

Mayor Mark Heyck thanked the federal government for the money its provided the city over the years for homelessness.

The main aspect of the city's Housing First program, also funded through the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, is currently housing 10 people though that's expected to grow to 20 by 2019.