Whitehorse Daily Star

Downtown housing facility to open next week

A long-awaited permanent housing facility for vulnerable Yukoners will open next Tuesday, alleviating demand for shelter beds in Whitehorse.

By Gabrielle Plonka on November 6, 2019

A long-awaited permanent housing facility for vulnerable Yukoners will open next Tuesday, alleviating demand for shelter beds in Whitehorse.

“We wanted to look at high-acuity clients and providing them the supports to try to move into permanent housing,” Health Minister Pauline Frost told media Tuesday afternoon.

“What I’m hoping is, by the end of this month, we’ll see less pressure on bed requirements at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter.”

The new Housing First facility, opening on Fifth Avenue at Wood Street, will provide 16 people with permanent, low-barrier housing.

The government’s Housing and Community Outreach Unit is working to move 16 people from the shelter by-name list into the permanent units on Fifth Avenue.

Clients will be moved into the Housing First facility in stages, starting later this month.

“The housing philosophies and the support around the Housing First was to try to encourage the medium acuity clients that perhaps would be more successful with supports,” Frost said.

The facility’s opening is taking place alongside restructuring initiatives at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter to house the high number of people without stable housing in Whitehorse.

The Housing First philosophy centres around the idea that vulnerable populations need a secure home before other supports can be helpful.

It has been adopted by the Yukon government in recent initiatives to fight homelessness and was recently incorporated into the emergency shelter.

Twenty beds previously allocated to transitional housing in the shelter are now permanent housing. The shelter and the Fifth Avenue facility will provide a total of 36 permanent beds to vulnerable Yukoners.

The number of new permanent beds will alleviate pressures to house the 50 people Frost says frequent the shelter on a nightly basis.

Yukon Party MLAs expressed concerns in the legislature Tuesday over the facility’s late opening date and the lack of consultation with neighbours. They also raised the $4.1 million price tag, which exceeds the government contract registry for the project by $1.4 million.

The project was originally slated for completion by last June.

Speaking to media, Frost denied the project was delayed.

“I wouldn’t say there are delays; I think we worked with our partners and we had a target,” Frost said. “We wanted to move the clients in at the end of the month, and we’re still on that target.”

Frost said her department worked with Safe at Home and the Yukon Housing Corp. to ensure that proper supports were in place at the new facility before opening.

During question period Tuesday, Yukon Party MLA Geraldine Van Bibber accused the Liberals of announcing the shelter in 2017 without consulting local residents. Consultation letters were sent to neighbours after the fact, she said.

Frost countered that her department was working “as transparently as we possibly can” on the project. She said her department spoke with neighbours and worked with the planning committee in collaboration with the housing corporation.

“We are doing it with integrity,” she said. “We are engaging.”

Van Bibber queried the higher cost for the project, a 52 per cent increase from the initially budgeted $2.7 million.

A later press release from the Yukon Party called the increase in spending a mismanagement of funds.

“This project is the latest in a long list of projects that the Liberals have mismanaged, leading them to go over-budget,” the release said.

Frost said project construction on the facility was awarded for $3.9 million. The project utilized the $2.7 million allocated in the budget. The remaining $1.4 million was secured through federal funding.

“The higher-than-anticipated construction bid is a positive sign of the strong economy, engaged workforce and busy construction industry,” Frost told the Star in an email this morning.

She defended the spending as necessary to ensure Yukoners’ safety and security.

“Housing is defined as a human right,” she said. “Every person requires shelter, and we want to ensure that this happens.”

Comments (17)

Up 0 Down 0

SaveTheNest on Nov 13, 2019 at 1:39 pm

Is it open yet?

Up 16 Down 4

resident on Nov 12, 2019 at 12:35 pm

Again, the same people who complain about taxes are demanding the government use our most expensive resources to deal with this problem.

I don't give a flying **** if these people get free housing if it's cheaper than their constant interactions with the Hospital, Police, and the court system. I don't care if they're given clean drugs to shoot if it keeps them out of our most expensive systems. Harm reduction is just another word for cost reduction. It's a hell of a lot cheaper to pay a nurse to meter out a proper dose of heroin and a clean needle than it is for that junkie to hit Emergency overdosing. If they're going to do it anyway, make it cost taxpayers less. Even if they're getting something for nothing.

Up 12 Down 3

Oya on Nov 12, 2019 at 8:22 am

Feeling very grateful that I do not own real estate anywhere between Steele and Cook St near 4th Ave.

Up 9 Down 2

Groucho d'North on Nov 9, 2019 at 9:56 am

Yes housing is a human right as determined in the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 1948.
This declaration was proclaimed at a time when much of Europe was digging out of the rubble caused by the Second World War. Food and shelter were in very short supply and some populations of displaced people were turned away for a variety of reasons, some involving their nationality and religions. To try and remove these impediments to displaced people seeking the basics to maintain their lives, the UN implemented the UDHR. Here we are many decades later and a number of things have since changed around the world - yet this declaration gets tossed on the table as an argument to attend to the peacetime needs of the down and out.
Yes, Housing in this context IS a human right, but that does not mean some others unnamed in the declaration have an obligation to provide it.
There are a number of legal arguments both for and against the UDHR created over the years, Google them if you want to learn more.

Up 25 Down 9

Obi on Nov 8, 2019 at 2:15 pm

Hey Shitu Self,
It's sounds like you would be happier living in China, Russia, or Cuba.
Your socialism beliefs, work great until you run out of spending other peoples money. And that is a fact whether you are a boomer, gen-xer, millennial, or new born....

Up 4 Down 30

I. Schitu-Knaught on Nov 8, 2019 at 12:54 pm

Hey Obi - The undercurrent for this social revolution is the fact that you people did not earn your privilege - So yes, give up your earnings, give up your savings and sacrifice your comforts because those who have not are there because you are deservedly privileged. This state of relative privilege causes others to use drugs and alcohol, commit crime, have mental health problems and other stuff.

It has nothing to do with your work effort because everyone is equal regardless of ability or willingness to contribute.
You silly boomer, gen-xer, millennial...

I. Schitu-Knaught

Up 34 Down 1

Groucho d'North on Nov 8, 2019 at 9:39 am

A standard question media should ask in follow-up to these government announcements should be: "How will you determine success and over what time frame? What metrics will you use to determine success or failure?"
Pretty simple stuff.

Up 38 Down 3

drum on Nov 7, 2019 at 6:41 pm

Smoke and Mirrors again from Frost and the Liberal Government. What does it mean by high-acuity clients and low-banner clients? (Where on earth did they get that phraseology) Are we talking addicted people on welfare now getting free housing? Are they going to turn this Taxpayers built building into another flop house just like the "Homeless Shelter"? We the Taxpayers are paying for all this nonsense.

Up 41 Down 3

Obi on Nov 7, 2019 at 1:59 pm

"Housing is a human right?"
For those taxpayers that have worked hard, saved money, and purchased a house with a mortgage, it brings to mind a quote.
"When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work, because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end for any nation!...….

Up 31 Down 1

Flagrant Violation of Normative Behaviour ? on Nov 7, 2019 at 1:34 pm

Yo JW - The next stupid thing is on the horizon. Drugs and the associated paraphernalia are now considered a human right in prison. The taxpayer is now a legally conscripted codependent corrigible-coddler... Soon, it will be illegal to create safe injection sites because they are stigmatizing, non-inclusive and labelling!

I am concerned that society would even consider this sort of social ostracism as being in good conscience. Everyone’s an enabler baby that’s for sure... Some by virtue of absolute ignorance and some because their ignorance is conscripted for them.

Why have jails, corrections officers, police, RCMP, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and the like - We do not respect them and they literally mean nothing because they can do nothing - Minister so and so I am being treated poorly and my rights are being violated and I will feel so much better if you fire...

Quick - Call Wahmbulance my feelings are hurt!
I am assuming I do not need to LOL this comment but just in case - LOL.

Up 43 Down 4

Bandit on Nov 7, 2019 at 8:31 am

I had considered putting my child into the Wood street Annex but I may reconsider. Not only do you have to run the gauntlet at 4th and Strickland, now kids will have to deal with it at 5th and Wood st. I guess if H&SS found funding for EMS, Security and a bunch of other services at The Shelter of Hopelessness they can ramp up the Security at The Wood Street Annex.

Up 34 Down 9

Josey Wales on Nov 7, 2019 at 1:46 am

Hmmm....housing is now a human right?
For those able, think about that ridiculous claim...another frosting on the cake of incompetence.
Certain the downtown core, the RCMP and all the others who reside in our composting core...will love the festive flavour it may add to the existing enabling mess.
I say before spring time, a lobbied for injection site will open somewhere in our engineered sty.

Who knew one could move to East Vancouver, without even producing a carbon footprint? I suggest all chronic like..an entire community has been able to perform this miracle.
RIP Whitehorse core, you are sorely missed by many non junkies, responsible partakers of firewater, those that do not partake but rather choose another path of life choices.
Defined as a human right....is thee stupidest thing I have heard in awhile now.
That is until the next stupid thing...

Up 18 Down 4

B. Holden-Schmidt on Nov 6, 2019 at 10:38 pm

This is a good news article. Non-constructive critics be damned. I am concerned however by the idea of selecting “medium-acuity” targets. The expertise in government is rather shallow and shallower still when it comes to assessing the human condition.

The tendency of individuals who perform these needs assessments is to “make” people medium to avoid concerns with liability. Then there is the lack of training that is associated with good assessment practice. Sure, you’ll have a bunch of nice ticky-boxes, an eventual score, and even some seemingly relevant criterion adjudged on the basis of information deficits.

The real kicker will be a very real lack of methodological rigour. Even well intentioned and well trained psychologists are easily lulled into this trap. Many more are duped because they lack the life-experience necessary to understand the other. They may be compassionate and they can feign understanding well but where they almost certainly fall down is on the issue of holding the client accountable.

It’s almost a certainty that this will never happen in the government because people can just pick up the phone, fire off an email and complain. The minister snaps her fingers, the minister asserts his interest and another YG staffer bites the dust... And another ones gone... Another one bites the dust...

The culture of fear and intimidation needs to change within the government - Then things can change for the better. Until then? Not sure what to say - Good luck with that?

Up 30 Down 14

Salt on Nov 6, 2019 at 10:32 pm

Frost is obviously unfit for the responsibilities that have been bestowed on her, not to mention the rest of the party leadership who enabled this train wreck. Everything she has touched should be audited.

Up 30 Down 7

Lost In the Yukon on Nov 6, 2019 at 7:28 pm

Yet again the Minister's ignorance (and/or that of her DM and assorted minions) is on full display by touting this as a "Housing First" initiative. If the media did some actual research they would see that what the Minister has created is not a "housing first" program.

Up 16 Down 7

Politico on Nov 6, 2019 at 4:44 pm

Those go hand in hand

Up 34 Down 13

PlainAndSimple on Nov 6, 2019 at 2:29 pm

Truly vulnerable individuals, yes, mere alcoholics or addicts, no.

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