Housing and homelessness are the topics de jour for Nov. 22.
National Housing Day is being recognized across the country, and in Whitehorse, governments and community partners are hosting a Yukon housing forum.
Pauline Frost, the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corp., Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council Chief Kristina Kane, and Mayor Dan Curtis provided the forum’s opening comments.
“It is no secret homelessness and vulnerability issues have been part of this community for some time,” Bill told forum participants at the Westmark Whitehorse Hotel.
“We have all seen it. We have all heard about it in the media. And from all accounts, it has not gotten any better.”
The issue of homelessness in the Yukon is “complex and multifaceted,” she said, and it requires “meaningful solutions” beyond just temporary shelter.
That’s why the Vulnerable People at Risk Forum was hosted for the first time in April 2015.
Kwanlin Dün and the City of Whitehorse “invited other governments, businesses, organizations, and the public to come together to share ideas and insights on how to better support people at risk and find solutions to end homelessness,” according to the Vulnerable People at Risk Initiative website.
The initiative gained momentum and partners, culminating in the release of the Safe at Home action plan on Sept. 30 of this year.
It is this action plan that today’s forum revolves around.
Kane called it “revolutionary for our territory.”
Now that the strategy to end and prevent homeless in Whitehorse has been established, the next step is implementation, according to Kane.
She told forum participants that safe and secure housing is the first step in improving Yukoners’ lives.
Frost acknowledged that “we’ve come a long ways” in addressing homelessness in Whitehorse, and that momentum will be furthered by impending announcements from Ottawa and the territorial government.
Today, the federal government released its National Housing Strategy, to which billions of dollars have been allocated.
“The details are still a bit grey for us,” Frost said. But she emphasized that she will be pressing Ottawa to make resources available to the Yukon.
Specific attention must be paid to housing young people, the aging population, and those in rural communities, she said.
The minister promised transparency and the provision of more details on the federal plan when they become available.
In response to housing questions from the political opposition and the media, Frost often made references to incremental change and models like Aging in Place and Housing First – an observation she made in her opening comments at the forum.
This is because, she explained, “there’s no black and there’s no white, there’s a lot of grey” when it comes to housing and homelessness in the Yukon.
However, Frost told the audience to stay tuned for the announcement of a “true Housing First initiative” soon.