Concerns over services or lack of services being delivered at the new Salvation Army centre on Fourth Avenue were raised in the legislature Tuesday.
During question period, NDP Leader Liz Hanson told the legislature it appears there is no day programming.
That is required according to the contract between the Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope and the Department of Health and Social Services.
It appears clients using the Centre of Hope are not being allowed to stay inside between meals because daily drop-in programming is not being provided, Hanson said.
“Some people want to be engaged, but individuals should have a choice on whether they want to leave the building for the day or to participate in meaningful activities or to access other services,” Hanson told the house. “The only choice now is to leave the building.”
As a result, said Hanson, neighbours and businesses are seeing more conflicts and social problems.
Health Minister Pauline Frost said concerns exactly as the NDP leader described have been brought to her attention. Officials with her department are working to resolve them, the minister said.
The department, Frost said, seconded a senior department official to work directly with the Salvation Army for six months to address the matter.
“I’m not shying away from that, nor is this government,” Frost told the legislature of the concerns being raised.
“We are working with our partners and, if for some reason they are not delivering, we will ensure that they are held up to the highest standard possible, and that’s to deliver the services to the clients the building was built for.”
The Centre of Hope, built and paid for by the Yukon government, has been open for a year now.
Under the 31-month service contract inked in September 2017, the government provides the Salvation Army with $100,000 a month in funding – or $3.1 million to March 31, 2020.
In return, the Army is to manage and make available 20 transitional housing units that clients can use for up to a year.
It’s to provide 25 emergency shelter beds for individuals to stay at the shelter for no more than 30 days.
The kitchen is to serve three meals a day for residents and those just walking in and taking advantage of the meal service.
The contract also says the Salvation Army is to provide daily drop-in programming between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. with no fewer than two staff members available.
The contract also stipulates the government can seek reimbursement of money paid for services not provided.
The government has not attempted to recover any money to this point, cabinet spokeswoman Janine Workman said Tuesday.
Pat Living, a Department of Health spokeswoman, said in an email Tuesday the department is continuing to work with the Salvation Army and is in continuous contact to discuss the delivery of services.
“It is important to note that we are coming up to the one-year anniversary of the Centre of Hope’s opening,” says Living’s email.
“This is a large and complex project with lots of programming components to it and we wanted to give the Salvation Army time to settle into the new home and new programming and operations.
“We have always viewed the one-year mark as a period of assessment and a check in on project operations; staff are also having direct discussions with the Salvation Army about the past year of operations.”
Ian McKenzie, the Army’s executive director, declined an interview with the Star this morning. He provided a written statement:
“We are currently in conversation with Social Services, working through a one-year review of our operations, and talking with them directly about any concerns they have.
“It is our hope that we can work together with the Yukon Government in order to deliver shelter services to our most vulnerable citizens.”
In an interview, Hanson suggested the government needs to be forthright with the Salvation Army about what it wants and how to make it happen.
Yukoners have put $15 million to $20 million into the capital cost of the building, she said.
The former Yukon Party government put all the eggs in one basket when it decided to build the Centre of Hope and turn the title over to the Salvation Army, Hanson suggested.
As result, she said, it’s the only organization providing the type of services it’s supposed to provide.
“We need to make it work, and the Yukon government needs to find a way, whatever the levers are, to make it work,” said Hanson.
The building is in her Whitehorse Centre riding.