Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for October 23, 2013

Advocate suggests 100 housing units to help homeless here

Homelessness advocate Judy Graves met with a slew of activists, politicians and shelter residents Tuesday to wrap up Poverty and Homelessness Action Week in the Yukon.

By Christopher Reynolds on October 23, 2013 at 3:12 pm


Photo by Vince Fedoroff

HELPING THE VULNERABLE — Homelessness advocate Judy Graves met with city councillors, MLAs, community leaders and homeless individuals this week to address poverty and housing in Whitehorse.

Homelessness advocate Judy Graves met with a slew of activists, politicians and shelter residents Tuesday to wrap up Poverty and Homelessness Action Week in the Yukon.

“The people in the streets have become my professors and they have become my priests,” she told an assembly of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition Tuesday evening.

The humble, ground-up approach Graves is renowned for bringing to the City of Vancouver as its only advocate for the homeless resonated throughout Whitehorse this week, as she shared stories from her time with people on the streets and stressed the importance of “seeing the world through their eyes.”

Arriving in Whitehorse last Saturday night, Graves met yesterday with church leaders and NDP MLAs as well as with local residents at a solidarity event on the waterfront.

She called on the city to build at least 100 units of low-barrier supported housing targeting people who are disabled or medically unstable.

“You have a small population who have such a complexity of disability that they are not going to be working again. They do need the supports ... that they’re not receiving in the streets,” she said in an interview with the Star.

On his recent annual northern tour, Prime Minister Stephen Harper suggested job training programs were a key solution to the problem of poverty and

Graves acknowledged their importance, but said they target a different group of people.

“People with a single disability can be trained and find employment. But multiple? They’re not going to get well. Just managing the disability is a full-time job.”

Impairments like Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, acquired brain injury and psychosis can couple with addiction to make people virtually helpless to care for themselves, she said.

Graves, famous for her 4 a.m. strolls through downtown Vancouver chatting with people on the streets, retired this year from her official advocacy role, which stemmed from her years as the city’s tenant assistance co-ordinator.

She saw differences — particularly the freezing cold — as well as similarities between Vancouver’s extreme poverty issues and those in Whitehorse.

“Here, nobody’s going to survive outside through the winter,” she said.

Graves also referred to the potential benefits of the territory’s First Nations land claims settlements: “That’s a startling difference from Vancouver. So you have an additional caring partner to be working with.”

She was struck by the warmth of Whitehorse residents, in spite of the cold, a collective character trait she felt the city could draw on.

“I love the people here. I love the people who live in nice houses and I love the people who have no houses at all,” she said.

“There is a neighbourliness that’s very small town that I did not expect to be in place in a city as big as Whitehorse .... Coming from a place like Vancouver, where you never get to know everybody, it seems here that everybody does know everybody else.”

Graves pointed out how Whitehorse could learn from what she sees as Vancouver’s mistakes by “nipping homelessness in the bud.” But she also touted Vancouver’s two-thirds reduction in homelessness since Mayor Gregor Robertson assumed office in 2008 as a model.

Vancouver adopted a 10-year plan to end homelessness in 2011, joining Calgary, Edmonton, St. John’s and other communities across Canada.

Such plans often centre around an increase in social services and a mix of social housing, market rental and affordable home units.

Tim Richter, president and CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, visited Whitehorse earlier this month. He suggested city council declare it wants to end homelessness and work with other levels of government to adopt a five-year plan.

“We have no government commitment to more shelter space…. It’s dire out there, and we have no action,” said local resident Diana Knopp at the coalition meeting Tuesday.

Whitehorse currently has just one shelter, the Salvation Army, as well as 427 social housing units administered by the Yukon Housing Corp.

The corporation issued a request this week for qualifications to build and operate new affordable rental housing. It hopes to find private sector and non-government organizations that will come forward with potential plans, and use the $13 million remaining in the Northern Housing Trust to stimulate construction.

“I’m not sure that’s the tough end of homelessness, but all things along the continuum help,” said Whitehorse city councillor John Streicker.

He said council had identified homelessness as a top priority, with a report on gaps in services provision due this fall.

He noted housing is largely a territorial mandate, but said the city could help with things like zoning and that a solution drawing on all levels of government and First Nations was the only way to tackle homelessness successfully.

“One of the key things is just to get all levels to sit down and work together,” he said, echoing Graves.

Whitehorse has a 1.4 per cent vacancy rate and a median rental rate of $875, factors that “push people out the bottom and into homelessness,” Graves said.

The Homelessness Partnering Strategy, a federal community plan for the North, noted communities in the territories are less likely to focus “on housing placement, housing loss prevention or labour market integration” or to target youth and seniors.

CommentsAdd a comment

Jackie Ward

Oct 23, 2013 at 5:23 pm

And who will pay for this? Where is my free housing? Oh right, I took responsibility for my own life so I must pay for housing myself. The majority of people who are homeless choose to be homeless. How will building more housing help people get off their feet?  I suggest you help these people by telling them they need to help themselves. 
You want to know why the gap between rich and the poor continue to widen? Go talk to the banks and governments who steal all our wealth.


Oct 24, 2013 at 9:10 am

You are never going to eliminate the homeless.  There are many people who want to be homeless. There are many who if you give them shelter they destroy it.  There are many who are a detriment to society.  They steal, kill, rape, do drugs and expect society to give them a hug and a house.  There are others who are genuinely down on their luck and do need help.  Those are the ones I can help.  I can’t help the deviants. 


Oct 24, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Sure.  Let’s give them free housing.  But let’s also make them show proof of employment and take regular drug tests.  And since this housing is free, they are subject to random checks to ensure that these units are maintained and if not, they are evicted.
I fully support helping those who are actually in need and trying to help themselves.  I am not, however, in support of helping people who do not want to take responsibility.


Oct 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm

WOW!!!! reading the two above comments just reassure the fact that Ignorance is alive and well in the Yukon. The article stated these people are SICK, and as a community we have an obligation to take care of each other. Get out of your glass houses and show some compassion for your neighbours..KARMA will always come back to bite you and if your stuck out on the side of the road in -40 just remember your selfishness when no one bothers to pull over to give you a helping hand.

June Jackson

Oct 24, 2013 at 7:31 pm

I have a hard time with homelessness.. Jackie, Guncache and Suggestion are right; there are homeless who make the decision to be homeless. But, they are still human beings..
When Occupy was in the gov. yard, a man wrote in and said, he couldn’t afford rents here and still pay for his brand new 70K truck. An example of how people set their priorities.

There are not ‘families’ here out in the cold. Social Services makes sure they have a roof.

We have addressed the root problems, alcoholism and addiction poured millions of dollars into A & D services, education and for what?  My suggestion? One of them anyway, support places like the Salvation Army, provide a clean bed, clean clothes, available food. The strata that is unrentable should have the choice of sleeping in the alley or going to the shelter. Every night. We can’t force people off the street, we can’t force them to take their medicine, or take a bath or anything else. So, give them the next best thing..bed, food, clothes, maybe a Doctor available a couple of days a week.

I take exception to Ms. Graves comment that she loves people with houses, and people without houses.  What the hell does that mean?  People in nice homes didn’t ‘get lucky’, they aren’t ‘fortunate’, they worked their butts off for that house, they educated themselves and earned every last thing they have. Nothing was free for them. Nothing is free for the homeless either, they just pay for it in a different way.


Oct 24, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Why has the First Nation community not stepped forward to help their own? They have the resources but seem to do little to provide anything


Oct 24, 2013 at 9:54 pm

You see these same attitudes when an employee is sick with severe depression or anxiety. People just don’t understand. Some of our homeless are suffering from mental afflictions just as serious as physical afflictions.

They are never going to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, they can’t. They need help, not ridicule. We ask the physically ill and disabled to work to the best of their ability, ask the same of our mentally ill and disabled.

Wooly Socks

Oct 24, 2013 at 10:38 pm

It’s always easier to assume the people who have nothing deserve their situation. Empathy takes more energy and education than scorn. I think we have a wonderful community and everyone can afford to help others even if they won’t receive anything in return.

Just Say'in

Oct 25, 2013 at 1:13 am

This article talks about this issue as though there was no subsidized housing in the Yukon. Are you kidding me? Most every First Nation in the Yukon run huge inventories of subsidized housing if not free housing on some cases. Yukon housing has an inventory in excess of a thousand units. Most of these are dispersed within the subdivisions we live in so as not to create ghetto’s. There is absolutely no shortage of subsidized housing in the Yukon. These people that do not qualify for that do not because they would destroy them. There is no incentive for the hard working people any more. When they see people sleeping till noon and others having to work two jobs to make ends meet.

Josey Wales

Oct 25, 2013 at 1:29 am

Imagine eh? All this time I’ve been fretting about paying my bills and KEEPING a roof over my head…AND stay clear of the devils juice.
When all the while I could simply pick up a big bottle from the dysfunction distributor on 2nd ave with a handle on it…fly around with the rest of the ravens…s—t on everyone’s car…then simply fly back to my community built funded birdhouse with the buzz of the day.
Did we start calling bums homeless after the Charter was passed in 1982? Since it was the master document of the PC Crusaders and other enablers, I suspect that shift was inline with the arrival of Canadian Apartheid and the political correct circus.
Yes folks the same circus that keeps our streets and communities RIPE with dysfunction.

Arn Anderson

Oct 25, 2013 at 11:06 am

Humans are compassionate species and will care for one another and other organisms as well. Greed and selfishness are almost being classified as a mental disease. I say, build the homes because I’m tired of money being a limited reactant to our potential.


Oct 25, 2013 at 11:56 am

@ Chilkootwoman, I’m sorry where does it say as community we have an obligation to take care of each other? Me and myself take care of me and you and your self can take care of anybody you wish to but it is not the responsibility of the community.

Adele Sandrock

Oct 25, 2013 at 11:59 am

100 Housing Units? How about (to begin with) to have a proper shelter especially for the winter? A place to stay warm and a place to sleep is of utmost urgency and not 100 housing units which remain anyway a fantasy.


Oct 25, 2013 at 2:22 pm

@ Chilkootwoman, If you feel that passionate about the homeless then invite them to come live with you.


Oct 25, 2013 at 2:35 pm

I’m not homeless because a ‘roof over my head’ has always been one of my highest priorities.  Of course the fact that I don’t waste what money I have on booze, smokes, lotto, bling, tats, junk food, fashionable clothes, cell phones, partying, etc.
... no doubt has a lot to do with it.

We all set our own priorities and make choices, take responsibility for yourself and deal with it.


Oct 25, 2013 at 7:55 pm

I once told a friend who lives in another community, that I was counting my blessings to have a good paying job. So I can afford to buy the little basket of half rotten strawberries at our community store for $8.25 and still enjoy eating the good ones. However, I told her that it saddened me to know that some parents can’t afford to buy their children the same. Her answer was” Oh! I was born and raised here and I don’t know anyone that are poor enough to deny their children good nutritious food. However, I know some that makes that choice.”

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