Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

The new Salvation Army Centre of Hope official opening took place last Friday. A large crowd was in attendance. Seen here, executive director Ian McKenzie of the local chapter of the Salvation Army, cuts the ribbon with the dignitaries.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell speaks to the audience in the dining room.

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One of the dormitory rooms that includes lockers.

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Ian McKenzie is seen in one of the living rooms.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

There is a training kitchen to teach cooking.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

Grand Chief Peter Johnston of the Council of Yukon First Nations presents artwork by Jarred Kane to Salvation Army Col. Lee Graves.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

Cpl. Lee Graves and Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost

New shelter called ‘an incredible space’

“It can be a bed for a night or it can be support for the future.”

By Whitehorse Star on October 10, 2017

“It can be a bed for a night or it can be support for the future.”

At a ceremony held last Friday, Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost summed up much of the role the new Salvation Army Centre of Hope facility at Fourth Avenue and Alexander Street will have in the community.

It will begin welcoming those who need a bed and a warm meal at the end of the month.

While Oct. 30 will mark the first date the centre will be open, the official ribbon-cutting was held Friday morning. Tours were offered to the large crowd that had come out for the event.

The facility will offer 25 emergency beds along with another 20 transitional apartments that are set to open around the end of November.

It was a standing-room-only crowd of about 80 who turned out for the event in the large dining room space which can ultimately sit up to 150 people for a meal.

The current building, also on Fourth Avenue at Black Street, seats about 40 people.

The dining room is one part of the main floor that is set to offer drop-in and community programs for clients.

Ian McKenzie, the local Salvation Army’s executive director, pointed out that with a dining room that is separate from two common rooms on the main floor, those coming in to the centre won’t have to leave the building when staff are cleaning up the dining room, as they do now.

Throughout Friday’s opening, McKenzie praised the numerous partners involved in the project, including the territorial and federal governments, which provided funding.

Under the Investment in Affordable Housing program, Ottawa and the territory contributed $1.1 million along with another $3 million from the Northern Housing Trust.

The Yukon government also contributed $10.2 million toward the purchase of the property, design and construction.

“The government has been an important partner in all that has gone on,” McKenzie said.

He pointed out that discussions around the building of a new shelter began in 2012.

While the building had originally been scheduled to open last year, work was delayed due to contaminated soil on the site, given that it had once accommodated a vehicle dealership and repair shop. Work had to be done to remediate the soil before construction could begin.

The excitement in the community over the ribbon-cutting and the centre’s impending opening to those who need a place to stay and/or a warm meal was evident in the crowd who had gathered there.

As Yukon MP Larry Bagnell pointed out, it’s not often there’s a crowd that large or with so many community leaders at such events.

“This is a very exciting day,” he said, describing the facility as “much-needed”.

As the building’s name suggests, he noted, it will be a source of “comfort and hope” to those in need.

Bagnell also highlighted federal investments in a variety of housing initiatives before congratulating all those involved with the project and wishing well those who will use the services at the facility.

Premier Sandy Silver also reflected on the years of work that have gone into developing the new facility, noting the Army’s “long-time and important presence in our territory,” and congratulating the organization on “a job well-done.”

McKenzie emphasized that the building is only the beginning. There are plans to work alongside Health and Social Services to ensure those coming into the facility have access to a range of programs available in the community.

Frost said she already sees stronger partnerships forming as the facility gets set to open.

“It will be life-changing for a lot of people in our community,” she said.

Also on hand for the ribbon-cutting was Cpl. Lee Graves, the Salvation Army’s chief secretary for Canada, who highlighted the thought and care that went into the design of the building.

“It’s an incredible space that will bring that important dignity and lift to all who might enter through the doors,” he said.

Graves later noted it will be a place where those in need can plan their next steps in life and build the skills they need.

The walls of the building were empty, but as McKenzie said, the organization is hoping it will be filled with artwork that will reflect the culture and community.

Peter Johnston, the Council of Yukon First Nations’ grand chief, presented the Salvation Army with the first piece of artwork for its walls – a carving entitled “The Healing Spirit” by Jared Kane, a Ta’an Kwäch’än artist.

“Unfortunately, most of the people that are going to utilize this facility are going to be our people,” Johnston said.

He stressed the importance of recognizing First Nations culture and spirituality. “We want our people to succeed and move on.”

McKenzie said Kane’s piece will be featured in a place of honour.

Before the ribbon was officially snipped, McKenzie also praised the contractors and architects for their work on the building.

Following the formal ceremony, McKenzie and other officials showed visitors around the facility – first on the main level.

After showcasing the dining room and kitchen along with the two common rooms where people can drop in to sit, read or make use of some of the board games and the like, he showed off the front desk.

It’s there that a staffer will be on-hand through the day to help direct those coming in based on their needs. Some may just need a warm meal, while others might want a bed for the night.

A small office will be available for a case worker to meet with clients and better determine what longer-term services they might need.

As McKenzie said, while the facility will provide meals and a place to stay, other services throughout the community may be required to help clients over the long-term.

The case worker will help connect clients with other agencies in the community, including helping them find longer-term housing.

Another room in the building will also help serve as a resource space with computers and printers. McKenzie noted those at the facility can use them to check email, work on résumés and so on.

On the second floor are small hallways that lead to dorm-style rooms, each with three or four beds and a locker for each.

“It adds a level of security,” McKenzie said.

Many who stay at the shelter don’t want to leave their things out in the open and have to carry them around, he pointed out. This will give them a space to lock up their things, with the Salvation Army providing locks for each.

There are two stand-alone rooms for those who are transgender or may not be comfortable sleeping in either a male or female dorm-style room.

The stand-alone rooms will also be available to those who may be ill and require more privacy.

A total of 20 emergency beds are available to men, with five available to women with the two areas separate from one another.

Each dorm room includes a washroom with a barrier-free shower.

McKenzie acknowledged it’s a “real challenge” to deal with bedbugs. Work has been done to address that, with protectors on the beds as well as material that prevents bedbugs from getting into the walls.

On the off-chance they do, there’s material in the walls designed to kill the pests.

Finally, on the top levels are the transitional housing units – 10 available on one level for men and 10 on the other level for women.

A laundry room, lounge and larger kitchen are featured on each level along with the self-contained units that include a bathroom, bed and small kitchenette.

As McKenzie said, the larger kitchen will be used in efforts to help teach tenants life-skills: food preparation, cooking, washing and drying dishes and so on.

“Part of the intent is to equip people with the life skills to be a good tenant,” he said.

He noted it’s expected many will live in the transitional units for up to a year, though it is a new model, and that may change, depending on how things go.

It will be long enough for tenants to build up the skills and financial history they may need with phone companies and the like to move on to more permanent housing down the road.

The facility will have about 20 people on staff, a slight increase over the staffing levels the current shelter has. McKenzie noted staff will have more of a specific focus at the new facility.

It’s anticipated the facility will cost approximately $2 million to operate each year.

Health and Social Services spokeswoman Pat Living stressed that’s a “ballpark” figure, and the precise costs will become more clear over the first year.

The Yukon government will fund 59 per cent of the costs to operate, with the Salvation Army putting in 35 per cent and the federal government chipping in the final six per cent.

Once the new facility is in full operation, McKenzie said, the Salvation Army will sell the current shelter.

Comments (26)

Up 0 Down 0

Politico on Oct 16, 2017 at 2:42 pm

@yukon56 Unfortunately the Super Value is under long term lease to RCSS. Nice thought but it's not available.

Up 0 Down 0

Sarah on Oct 16, 2017 at 9:17 am

The liberal way is to up small business owners taxes, to spend millions on a building that will be used by very few, then pay staffers 100k a year to cater to them.

Their reply: don’t worry about it.

Up 0 Down 0

Sarah on Oct 16, 2017 at 9:15 am

When a man goes hungry, you don’t give him food, you teach him to fish.

This building should have been made by homeless (with assistance) so they could have earned a wage and gotten off the street.

But hey let’s just spend millions on an “incredible space”.

Up 0 Down 0

Anie on Oct 16, 2017 at 7:54 am

Yukon56, and those who thumbs up the comment: The super value site is not owned by the government. It is leased from the owner by Loblaws. So how exactly were govt and Sally Ann supposed to build there? While I agree that this new building probably won't address the needs of the client group, we should try to be realistic about alternative solutions.

Up 1 Down 0

Sacallison on Oct 15, 2017 at 7:27 pm

17 years ago I was a young mom riding the bus with my baby on my back,each arm loaded with groceries, inevitably one of these people that everyone has an opinion about would get up and offer me their seat, when I would get off at my stop one of them also inevitably would offer to carry my grocery bags for me, i was never asked for spare change. If these people who are so deeply flawed and damaged could manage basic human kindness why is it so hard for the rest of us to muster up some compassion? When I am asked for my dollar out of the grocery cart I always give it (often they will load the groceries in the car for me while I get my 6 yr old in the car) if it cost me one dollar to give a fellow human a little bit of dignity, I think that is money well spent.

Up 0 Down 0

Sacallison on Oct 15, 2017 at 6:33 pm

The level of compassion is really mind boggling. Taxpayer dollars, taxpayer dollars, maybe we should let all the homeless people sleep in cardboard boxes and we can kick them out of the hospital and cut off all the "ambulance rides"because after all they don't contribute any tax dollars. It is very easy to pass judgment on people or a group of people without ever having had to walk in their shoes. Believe it or not we are all one or two bad decisions away from being in those shoes, think about that. Think about all of the family members that might have been there to cushion you from the consequences of your bad decisions and then imagine that they were not there for you, still feel so judgemental?

Up 20 Down 5

yukon56 on Oct 15, 2017 at 9:09 am

Should have used existing empty space instead like the Super Value site

Up 18 Down 8

drum on Oct 14, 2017 at 8:02 pm

I am so happy - now that we have (as Taxpayers) spent all this money there will be no homeless people anymore. I am sure that was the original plan for spending such a lot of taxpayers money in the first place. Or what was the Salvation Armies plan!!!!

Up 11 Down 10

warlord on Oct 14, 2017 at 7:50 pm

The Salvation Army is not on the list of genocide, pedophile perpetrators of abuse.
Many First Nations people turned to the Salvation Army in the face of crisis. We need more historical information on origins and achievements of the Salvation Army so that Yukon can better appreciate the role played by this institution as a beacon of hope for the poor and dispossessed.

Up 15 Down 2

ProScience Greenie on Oct 14, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Sacallison - most simply want to see more fiscal responsibility so more goes to actually helping those in need rather than to consultants, contractors, developers, top heavy staffing, travel, meetings, fancy structures etc. The current gravy train mentality sees too little gravy going to those in need. That's not right.

Up 23 Down 7

Lost in the Yukon on Oct 13, 2017 at 8:17 pm

Dearest Hmmmmm ... well, someone did lose their job. But it was not for this, the Deputy Minister who promoted this arrangement with the Salvation Army at the expense of deep sixing a cheap and more effective proposal that would have been up and running at least three years ago. No unfortunately he was allowed to "retire" after totally destroying the Department.

... and yes, the selling of this lot to YG and other financial sweetheart deals for the back room boys of the Yukon Party in the dying days of the Pharmacists reign was part of a two prong strategic plan of the Yukon Party.

The first was to maximize benefits to a few because they knew the handwriting was on the wall. The second was that in achieving the first part they would turn over an empty cookie jar to either the Liberals or NDP. This would force whoever was in government with difficult decisions that would make a second term next to impossible - thus paving the way for a return to power.

The YP will campaign on how good things were when they were in power and look what the Liberals have done ... sales tax, airport fees, etc.

Up 21 Down 9

Sacallison on Oct 13, 2017 at 6:54 pm

I am always amazed at the rude, stupid comments people leave. This is a nice thing for people in need, who cares the why or what, for goodness sake however unsavoury the street people can be, they are still humans, who deserve some measure of respect, for the simple fact that they are in fact humans. If you treat people with dignity they tend to raise their behaviour to match expectation. I interact with these people daily at my place of employment and I know this to be true because I have seen it with my own eyes."But for the grace of GOD, there go I...."

Up 25 Down 11

fossil point on Oct 12, 2017 at 10:44 pm

This place should have been furnished with donations. How long do you think that living quarter is gonna last.

Up 25 Down 14

fossil point on Oct 12, 2017 at 10:30 pm

Should have been built near the hospital to save all the money wasted on ambulance visits there. I work across from the food bank and watching paramedics show up three times a day for these people. Sickening.

Up 26 Down 4

drum on Oct 12, 2017 at 6:45 pm

I so wish this facility will be a success for the folks that are targeted. But, I so agree with Hmmmmmm. A good Conservative Whitehorse Mogul sold that contaminated lot to the YG Government for I would imagine a huge amount of money. It should have been surveyed and checked beforehand and the seller should have been responsible for decontaminating the lot or the YG should not have bought it. There are lots of vacant lots in this city that are not contaminated. The YG used Canadian taxpayers money to buy that lot and build the facility. We will also be responsible for supplying 65% of the running costs for ever. We deserve better.

Up 22 Down 1

Groucho d'North on Oct 12, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Now that there is long overdue adequate shelter in place for these people in need, I'd like to hear the plans the 'Housing First' promoters have in place for these folks to complete their road to recovery.

Up 21 Down 5

Josey Wales on Oct 11, 2017 at 8:13 pm

Swank indeed, hope it works for the intended purpose of giving folks a leg up.

Up 32 Down 7

north_of_60 on Oct 11, 2017 at 2:58 pm

The SA took our tax dollars and built an 'incredible' edifice, but no space for a Thrift Store? They've become just another group of self serving money grubbers riding on the backs of the poor. They will never get another donation from me until they open another Sally Ann Thrift Store.

Up 38 Down 21

jc on Oct 10, 2017 at 9:09 pm

Another 5 Star Hotel. My how Whitehorse is growing.

Up 40 Down 7

Ginger Johnson on Oct 10, 2017 at 9:03 pm

it cost a gazillion dollars to build - it had better be "an incredible space"

Up 42 Down 10

Hmmmm on Oct 10, 2017 at 6:28 pm

What prominent Yukon conservative mogul sold this property to the Yukon government, and for how much? Taxpayers paid more than market value for a property that came with a huge environmental liability. And taxpayers paid to clean it up. Heck of a deal for the original owners eh?
Someone should ATIPP the heck out of this. And really, someone or someone's should lose their jobs over this "deal".

Up 45 Down 12

ProScience Greenie on Oct 10, 2017 at 4:41 pm

So much money spent with so little actually going to help those in real need. It's a gravy train but not for the poor out there.

Up 52 Down 15

Just Say'in on Oct 10, 2017 at 4:08 pm

You talk about overkill for this type of service. Pretty Cadillac operation if you ask me. How about a leg up for the working poor that are working two jobs and paying rent. There is no fairness.

Up 29 Down 12

Just Say'in on Oct 10, 2017 at 4:06 pm

Sell the old Facility???? To who. Bed Bugs and all. Can you imagine?

Up 24 Down 35

B on Oct 10, 2017 at 4:03 pm

Kudos to the Yukon Party for this awesome building and to the Liberals for...cutting the ribbon! Looked like an amazing and well-attended event - were any of the current YP MLAs invited to this event, or were they recognized in speeches?

Up 30 Down 28

Nile on Oct 10, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Great to hear the FN and Liberals praise a Yukon Party and Conservative government’s project.

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