Whitehorse Daily Star

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Pamela Hine and Pauline Frost

Housing project a Yukon first: minister

A Housing First building is being planned for downtown Whitehorse.

By Taylor Blewett on November 23, 2017

A Housing First building is being planned for downtown Whitehorse.

It will be a first for the Yukon, according to Pauline Frost, the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corp. (YHC).

The multi-unit building designed to shelter the “hard to house,” as Frost called its future tenants, will be located at Fifth Avenue and Wood Street. The site formerly housed the St. Elias students’ residence, which has been demolished.

“This project will offer much-needed access to housing for individuals who are currently homeless or in very vulnerable situations,” reads a quote from the minister in a press release issued Wednesday.

“The Yukon Housing Corporation and the Department of Health and Social Services will work collaboratively on this project, which will provide these Yukoners with a permanent home as they get the additional support they need.”

Frost told the Star yesterday that projected occupancy and a timeline for the project’s completion are not available yet.

However, the request for proposal (RFP) issued for the project’s design includes that information.

According to the RFP, the Housing First residence will be designed as a three-storey building with 15 housing units.

The construction budget is approximately $2.7 million and the project’s proposed completion date is June 30, 2019.

According to YHC president Pamela Hine, the housing corporation will own the building while the Department of Health and Social Services will be responsible for programming and services.

Funding has been sourced, she confirmed, and at least some of it will come from the federal government.

However, the Yukon government will wait until the project’s design is finalized to discuss those details.

Meg Grudeski, the housing co-ordinator with the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, (YAPC), told the Star this morning that her organization supports the principle behind the housing project.

“I think that from the coalition’s point of view, we’re excited that housing first is part of the dialogue, because it’s definitely one of the ideologies or philosophies or best practices that we’re hoping that the territory will start to see.”

However, more information about the project is needed before it can be celebrated as truly Housing First, she said.

A confirmed and commonly-accepted set of principles comprise the Housing First model.

Listed on the Homeless Hub website – a resource Grudeski pointed to – these are immediate access to permanent housing with no housing readiness requirements, consumer choice and self-determination, recovery orientation, individualized and client-driven supports and social and community integration.

In practicable terms, these mean:

• Prospective tenants are not required to be sober nor participate in addictions or mental health treatment or programming to be housed.

• Tenants are able to exercise some choice in where they live and what services they access.

• A spectrum of supports are available to facilitate individual recovery, including harm reduction. This could mean abstinence or it could mean managed substance use.

• Available support considers individual differences, such as cultural, financial, or level of need. A rent supplement is one example.

• Housing should not isolate nor stigmatize residents from the rest of their community, and opportunities to engage socially should be made available.

“It’s based very much in providing housing first within a system of care, based with harm reduction,” Grudeski said.

“So I guess that’s just what we would want to see, is that it is Housing First, as Housing First is meant to be done.”

Kate White, the NDP’s housing critic, said she was “pleasantly surprised” to hear this project announced, “considering that until the housing debate, the minister really didn’t understand what Housing First meant.”

Frost’s definition of the model was scrutinized in the legislature and the media earlier this fall.

That happened after she referred to the new Whitehorse Salvation Army Centre of Hope as being Housing First – despite the fact that the Army confirmed the transitional apartments in the building are not intended to be alcohol or drug-friendly spaces.

The Yukon government is funding the Centre of Hope’s operations and maintenance expenditures to the tune of $1.2 million every year for the next three years.

In this morning’s interview, Frost cited the five aforementioned principles of Housing First, and said the government’s objective with this project is to deliver programming and services based on those principles.

When asked, she stated that “she doesn’t see an issue” with substance use in the proposed building, as long as safety protocols are respected.

Harm reduction

“Residents do not have to meet any conditions regarding sobriety, and Housing First really is about employing principles of harm reduction,” the minister said.

While the plan is to have support staff on site, she explained, the units will function similar to a private rental. These will be people’s homes, “and treated as such.”

White said she’s looking forward to finding out who these support staff will be – government or NGO – and whether utilizing their support will be a tenancy requirement.

While it’s a good thing to make supports available, White said, the Housing First model dictates they can’t be “forced.”

While Frost and Hine confirmed that the YHC and Health and Social Services will be working with other partners on this project, no names were provided.

See coverage of federal housing initiative.

Comments (21)

Up 0 Down 0

Carman on Nov 29, 2017 at 9:09 pm

This is a wonderful idea. The fact that is supportive housing gives dignity to the less fortunate and allows them a place to call home. Of course there will have to be some rules. There is a place in Victoria BC that is like this and the people love it.

Up 0 Down 0

Lost In the Yukon on Nov 29, 2017 at 5:49 pm

What Frost is spending tax payer dollars on (money they say they don't have because of the Yukon party) is subsidized supportive housing. It's not even close to Housing First ... she needs to get better advisors in her department.

Up 2 Down 0

Lost In the Yukon on Nov 29, 2017 at 4:01 am

Frost still doesn't understand what Housing First is ... http://homelesshub.ca/solutions/housing-accommodation-and-supports/housing-first

Up 2 Down 0

YG Condoning Illegal Drug Use? on Nov 28, 2017 at 12:38 pm

So does this mean YG officially condones illegal drug possession and use in the home? If a YG minister says its going to be ok to have drug use in government housing it has to be okay for me to possess and use those same drugs in my house as well. Or is it only government housing where you will now be able to own and use street drugs without fear of penalty?

Up 4 Down 0

Just Sayin' on Nov 28, 2017 at 11:09 am

Projects in Whitehorse. You know you are big city when. Perhaps we could be strategic about it and place it somewhere away from tourist locations.

Socialism is alive.
Accountability - RIP

Up 2 Down 0

Folks of Whitehorse on Nov 26, 2017 at 1:52 pm

On budget. I watched Yukon Housing bring in a lot projects on budget or even under budget.
That = $180,000 per unit the government is spending should cover most of the cost. They already have the land and the only costs there are is services into the property.
I speak in common sense not BS.
Wilf Carter 25 plus years in public and private housing in Canada and with off shore firms.

Up 4 Down 1

yukonlibby on Nov 25, 2017 at 7:12 pm

I'll believe it when I see it that they can build 15 apartments for 2.7 million dollars. This one has "over budget" written all over it.

Up 4 Down 1

My Opinion on Nov 25, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Ha. Just noticed they are even referring to it as the Projects in the title.

Up 5 Down 1

My Opinion on Nov 25, 2017 at 6:26 pm

The large cities in the USA and large centres like Toronto did this very thing in the 60's 70's 80's What did they create you ask? They were called the Projects. They killed the inner cities of most of the large cities in the US and put millions into abject poverty.

Up 5 Down 0

Josey Wales on Nov 25, 2017 at 4:05 am

Nobody thought to “engineer” this into the latest greatest experiment called pooville?
....as our community circles the drain, along with what is left of Canadastan.

Up 7 Down 1

Yukon Watchdog on Nov 24, 2017 at 6:44 pm

2.7 million for 15 apartments? Wow. I'm guessing granite counters and other high end finishing. This will be Whitehorse's newest ghetto. So happy I don't live anywhere near there. I would not even consider buying within a six block radius of that site now. The poor people in that neighborhood. There goes your investment in your home. Real estate values are sure to drop by at least 25% in the immediate area. While I do believe these "hard to house" people need a place to stay, this almost seems to enable their habits. A place like this needs to be near .....hmmm, I don't know.... not me, that's for sure. It's nice it's in walking distance to the new Sally Ann. Oh, wait. That makes the radius even that much larger now. If I owned real estate in that area, I'd be screaming bloody hell.

Up 7 Down 0

Juniper Jackson on Nov 24, 2017 at 6:12 pm

Hey JC..me too! I was told I was 'safe' where i was, but there might be an apt coming up in Carmacks. Complete disregard of medical necessitating my being closer to Doctors and an ER. Mind you this was a few months ago, and although I am safe where I am, my rent was $650. when I moved in and $1,600 now, and my pensions went up $1.65. Closer to 80 than 70, I had to go back to work. So yeah.. this initiative kinda irritates me too. Given that so many have paid the taxes that support all this, 56 years paying for me..and what do I get at the end of my life? Why, lucky me.. I get to keep paying.

Up 8 Down 1

Josey Wales on Nov 23, 2017 at 9:43 pm

So glad I do not live downtown. As each year rolls by ...looks, sounds, feels and often smells as East Vancouver.
When do we get a drive thru needle reload vendor?
Seems as an entire industry has been well established and mega publicly funded babysitting adults.

Up 7 Down 2

Government Junkie Housing on Nov 23, 2017 at 9:27 pm

The race to the bottom is happening, Whitehorse will now have its own defined ‘projects’ housing where drug use and crime will rule. The police and EMS will have a new frequent flyer address they attend numerous times per day.

Up 7 Down 0

jc on Nov 23, 2017 at 9:15 pm

Several months ago, I applied for Seniors housing from Yukon Housing and was told, sorry no money left in the budget.

Up 1 Down 5

Rudy Sudrich on Nov 23, 2017 at 8:49 pm

long time overdue

Up 6 Down 1

Wow the NDP is so negative on the Minister responsible for Yukon Housing on Nov 23, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Ms. White you need to get a life in reality about the facts of life in housing.
Wow NDP going totally down in the Yukon.

Up 3 Down 2

looks fairly good on Nov 23, 2017 at 6:58 pm

Sorry, sorry! I just re-read and caught that the reporter was stating the operational budget for the new Sally Anne building, not this one! That 1.2 million a year is not for this building so disregard that portion of my former post. We'll have to wait to read the operational budget of this building. I stand by my comments about this new facility being good for all the reasons mentioned.

Up 7 Down 1

looks fairly good on Nov 23, 2017 at 6:55 pm

A building cost of almost $200,000 per apartment? Maintanance of almost $100,000 per apartment per year?! This is exactly what I mean when I say private landlords are the best deal going. These rentals have a carrying cost of $800 a month for the cost of construction (if it were a regular mortgage), for 25 years until it is 'paid off', plus $7,500 per month in repair and maintenance. Yes. This is what the government and NGO's pay themselves to rent to The Hard To House.

$8300 a month for presumably one person.
Meanwhile private landlords are told they are thieves for charging $1200. Ha!

This is exactly in line with what I've been saying for years. Welcome to the world of being a landlord, Mr. and Ms. Tax Payer. What the private sector does for $1200, the government does for $8300.

That said, I am very glad that the government is focusing on renting to the truly hard to house now instead of high grading functional tenants for Yukon Housing units. Nice to see that the people who are not ready, able or willing to quit drinking and drugs will be taken off the streets and housed by the government and the Housing First Society.

I do agree with the principles and there will be many cost savings in terms of ambulance and RCMP taxi rides to emergency beds, not to mention alleviation of suffering. I also believe a roof over your head and some dignity and stability is necessary before most can assess their lives and take a step toward repairing their lives.
It's going to be a wild ride though, and the Stratford, Chilcoot and so on are going to take a bit of a hit.

My only issue is the ridiculous cost to the taxpayer. $260 a day per person! That is truly nuts. I'd like to see the budget to see where that money is going.

Up 5 Down 1

ron on Nov 23, 2017 at 5:15 pm

You have got to be kidding. Publicly paid housing and you're allowed to do illegal drugs on-site. Sounds more like a Drugs First program.

Up 4 Down 1

Tater on Nov 23, 2017 at 4:05 pm

I don't understand a housing shortage. There is a YHC house in Riverdale that's been vacant since August 2016 (16 months). Mind you it took 3 months to fix up the damage from the previous tenant.

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