Whitehorse Daily Star

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SOLUTIONS PURSUED – The placement of a full-time EMS worker at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter is one of Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost’s strategies for mitigating the escalating behavioural problems outside the downtown facility (above). The $15-million building opened in late 2017 Inset Pauline Frost.

YG addressing shelter problems: minister

In response to widespread concern, the minister of Health and Social Services is vowing a short-term action plan for the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter.

By Gabrielle Plonka on August 12, 2019

In response to widespread concern, the minister of Health and Social Services is vowing a short-term action plan for the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter.

“Over the past several months I have met with the city, local businesses and residents and we all agree that the current situation at the Whitehorse Shelter is unacceptable,” Pauline Frost said in a letter she addressed to Yukoners and posted to social media Sunday night.

Public dissatisfaction and complaints of excessive loitering outside the shelter came to light last Monday at city council.

Residents and business owners spoke out objecting to the city’s proposed beautification project on Alexander Street.

Several speakers at the meeting described a worsening situation at the shelter, and feared the installation of street furniture would foster more issues.

“I don’t want to encourage people to sit around and loiter,” Joyce Mickey, who owns a home on Alexander Street, said at the council meeting. “I am exhausted from the behaviour.”

Hans Oettli, the longtime owner of Duffy’s Pets, told the Star this morning he estimates a loss of thirty-five per cent of his revenue to the worsening state of Alexander Street.

“People are afraid to come,” Oettli said. “We have comments from customers that they get abused outside, they get spit at, one woman got a bottle thrown at her car. It’s unbelievable.

“This has become the epicentre of our drug and alcohol problem in Whitehorse.”

Oettli observed that the people outside the shelter seem consistently intoxicated. He believes two or three of the social groups hanging out there “don’t get along” and repeatedly fight in the street.

Earlier reporting by the Star heard residents similarly complain of public drinking and violence. One local said he has seen people publicly having sex and defecating on the block surrounding the shelter.

Many say an offsales liquor outlet nearby is worsening the behavioural problems outside the shelter.

Mayor Dan Curtis conceded last week the issue is “challenging,” and said he receives multiple complaints a week from anxious residents.

“We don’t really have the ability to address it individually as a council as far as resource and mandate,” Curtis said.

City council members said they were encouraging Frost’s department to address the dilemma.

Less than a week later, the minister posted her proposed multi-part action plan to Facebook.

In the statement, Frost proposed an expanded Block Watch patrol presence operated by the RCMP, the Department of Justice and the Kwanlin Dün First Nation.

She added that exploration of a Community Safety Officer Program is underway to “ensure issues around risky behaviour and loitering can be addressed in an appropriate and sustainable way.”

Secondarily, Frost proposed designing an outdoor space for guests that will be out of the way of entrances to local businesses. 

Third, Frost said she is working with the Department of Community Services to co-ordinate the station of a full-time EMS worker at the shelter.

She promised an announcement confirming this by the end of summer. The intention of a stationed EMS worker is to reduce the number of non-essential visits to Whitehorse General Hospital’s emergency ward.

Fourth, the statement suggested that new shelter rules would begin providing meals to “guests only” and closing the doors to non-shelter guests at 9 p.m.

As for internal operations, Frost said her department is working on increasing programming and community engagement activities for shelter guests, and working with Income Support Services to support individuals returning to their  home communities.

“Our vision, which I know many of you share, is that the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter becomes a place that is welcome by all and helps all members of the community thrive,” Frost said.

“We are not there yet, but we are all partners in getting there.”

Frost promised that public consultation with residents, Yukon First Nations, city council, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and non-profit organizations would be paramount in moving forward.

“I want to thank you for your ongoing patience and compassion,” Frost said.

“Please know that we are working with urgency to address your concerns and the complex issue of poverty and homelessness in our territory.”

Oettli said he has been in talks with Frost and believes her action plan is a solid step forward.

“I think she’s on the right track; some of the ideas are good because she can see the problem,” he said. “It just needs to be sped up tremendously.”

The Star’s request to the Whitehorse RCMP for comment on their perspectives on the worsening problems was redirected to Frost’s department.

Comments (39)

Up 0 Down 0

Homeless on Sep 9, 2019 at 1:24 pm

I was walking in to get some lunch, when someone spit at me from their car.
Another rowdy person yelled at me to "get a job" and stop "drinking my life away".
Someone threw a blue slushy from their truck and almost hit me while walking outside the Shelter last week.
I work full time, don't drink, don't have public sex, don't sell drugs, I am proactive with the community and am trying to get a home.

Up 0 Down 0

No Excuse for Failure on Aug 18, 2019 at 8:05 pm

Thanks to @drum for one of the most sensible recommendations so far.
Let's hope all four govts are reading these comments.

Up 11 Down 1

drum on Aug 17, 2019 at 4:15 pm

Our own "East Hastings". I feel sorry for the clean, sober people who need a place to go for a hot heal and some company. Create a healing centre outside town, have the FN Governments run it, send all the trouble makers that the RCMP should pick up but have nowhere to take them.. If we do not clean this problem up now it will be just like "East Hastings". The cooler weather will drive them inside the "Shelter" but next year with the nice weather - guess what - the fighters, drunks, people having sex in the alley, the people harassing the people trying to go into local businesses will be back.

Up 5 Down 16

My view on Aug 16, 2019 at 8:31 pm

This is a complex problem to which there is no easy answer but thankfully we have the right progressive people working diligently towards an equitable solution that all parties can live within.

Up 17 Down 5

drum on Aug 16, 2019 at 6:32 pm

Where do our homeless people get the money to be drunk and use drugs everyday?????? My taxpayers money? Yes. Those so called homeless persons have homes that are subsidized, get welfare every month and do not have to work for a living!!!!

Up 6 Down 22

cornerstone on Aug 16, 2019 at 1:06 pm

Alcoholism and drug addiction is a symptom of an underlying cause/problem as everyone in the addictions field knows. So tell us groucho, what is the solution and the cause of this nation wide problem? Tell us your solution instead of looking to the state like it's the great mother to answer all our problems. Have you considered that it might be people like yourself that are making people sick? "You people have been here for 500 years, we know everything about your culture, you know nothing about ours". (Six Nations Chief)

Up 23 Down 5

Groucho d'North on Aug 15, 2019 at 6:11 pm

"...I want to thank you for your ongoing patience and compassion,” Frost said.
“Please know that we are working with urgency to address your concerns and the complex issue of poverty and homelessness in our territory.”

Even now she is straying from the issue foremost in the public's concern - rampant alcohol and drug abuse and the resulting bad behaviour from her "guests" at her shelter for the homeless. This must be another example of Liberals attempting to change the channel.
Stay on topic Minister Frost and focus on solutions for these complaints of bad behaviour and how to resolve them, otherwise we'll be complaining about this much longer and louder.

Up 6 Down 30

Same new on Aug 15, 2019 at 5:39 pm

Dear jaw, you and your government created the situation you see on 4th. You fix it, why should FN governments fix your mess?

Up 20 Down 8

Juniper Jackson on Aug 15, 2019 at 11:19 am

Although I said my piece in prior articles, I think it's worth a reminder that 'we', the royal all of us, can't help anyone that doesn't want to be helped.

People are happy the way they are, the life they live. Money on request for their pot, drugs or booze. They have no reason to exercise any control, some, little better than animals and smell worse. BUT.. they're happy with that. You can't force someone to take a bath when they are quite happy with the way they are.

There are simply millions and millions of dollars in programming for people who do want help. Sarah Steele isn't cheap either. Weight wise is not cheap.. No one takes personal responsibility for anything. There are NO excuses. You're drunk because you drink... you're high because you do drugs... you're overweight because you eat too much, all your choice. It's been pointed out before, but here it is again..everyone has problems. Very few show up on 4th Ave. or in the back alley.,

The solutions are all there.. but why would you avail yourself of them when you are so happy with your life and don't see anything wrong with the way you live?

Up 26 Down 9

drum on Aug 15, 2019 at 10:09 am

No penalties for Welfare Fraud - no criteria - no validation to see if you qualify. That means the whole of Whitehorse could apply for Welfare. No wonder our "homeless" have money to drink everyday.

Up 15 Down 2

CelticApache on Aug 14, 2019 at 10:45 pm

You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending. Everything heals. Your body heals. Your heart heals. The mind heals. Wounds heal. Your soul repairs itself. Your happiness is always going to come back. If you propose to speak, always ask yourself is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?
"You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight into the heart."
Verse from a quote by Cochise-Apache.

Up 23 Down 7

M Smythe on Aug 14, 2019 at 10:24 pm

I am just outraged at our government, their lack of planning and accountability. I have my vote already cast in the next election and it is not for this government and especially Minister Frost or Mr Silver who supports all of this unprofessionalism and excuse making. The rest of us are accountable with no free passes in the community. Why are we asked to abide by the law but then to have compassion for those that don't and be OK with our children and ourselves working around all of the addiction and nuisance behaviour. The message you are sending is appalling. I feel for the RCMP, EMS, and business owners. When are you going to find what we have to say important?

Up 10 Down 28

Same old same old on Aug 14, 2019 at 9:29 pm

Dear yukon 71, I am looking forward to some of this melding that you talk about. Until First Nations are on an equal footing with the rest of Yukon society and take their rightful place, you will be hearing from people like me, get used to it. I don't care what happened anywhere else, First Nations were here before you, and we are still here and will not leave, let the melding begin?

Up 8 Down 17

Same old same old on Aug 14, 2019 at 9:25 pm

Dear Tired, why not spend an evening researching what history there is on the subject. Instead of striking out, with guilt I assume, you could learn something and maybe be a more well rounded human that has some tolerance for individuals that have not enjoyed the privilege you have.

Up 43 Down 8

Tired on Aug 14, 2019 at 4:07 pm

Dear Same old same old,
The blood is on who's hands?
Please tell me how many generations it is going to take you to stop blaming the colonialists for the problems in your life?
Where are the core values of your culture in raising your children to respect themselves. They should be given the belief that through their own abilities they can achieve whatever they want.
The blood you talk about at "party central shelter", I think has to shared by everybody.

Up 35 Down 10

Yukoner71 on Aug 14, 2019 at 3:33 pm

Yeah same old, same old. Blame, blame, blame right? No one is ever responsible for themselves or their own actions it’s always someone else’s problem to deal with them right? The rest of us are mysteriously at fault for actions none of us or our families had anything to do with. FYI it’s called life on planet earth and civilizations have been meeting and melding since the Neanderthals and cro-magnon people first interacted with each other.
Many people and civilizations throughout history have experienced conditions and events that make FN problems look pale in comparison and have moved on and dealt with it without using the perennial crutch of blame. I think the really amazing thing is that Yukon FN’s managed to get all the way into the 19th century still living lifestyles not as advanced as the Bronze Age civilization. Look at some of the old pictures taken at first contact here in the late 1800’s, sooner or later the rest of the world was going to come calling and it did.

Up 27 Down 26

Same old, same old on Aug 14, 2019 at 10:02 am

Another point to consider when the neo cons comment on this story, this problem was created by the Yukon Party government for the benefit of one of their known supporters.

Up 15 Down 44

Same old, same old on Aug 14, 2019 at 10:01 am

Just read the article and the ridiculous comments and have some thoughts. It is amazing how many of the same comments show up from the same on line key board warriors, when the article concerns minorities.
Just remember the relationship between the colonialist and First Nations has been one that has decimated First Nations communities. The result of that is what you see on 4th.

Up 38 Down 11

Donovan on Aug 14, 2019 at 9:04 am

Ms. Frost, When are you going to do the right thing for everyone in the Yukon and resign your position? You are inept at your job and have created a portfolio of one big fiasco/failing after another. I have never seen a minister with such bad judgement.
Sandy Silver, when are you going to do the right thing and replace this constantly failing minister? Election can't come fast enough to break up this failing grade guberment.

Up 26 Down 12

Douglas Trim on Aug 14, 2019 at 7:34 am

Open the doors. Let the people in off of the street. Deal with the social problems inside the facility, not out on the street. Drunk, sober, stoned, sick or healthy, do for these people what they can't do for themselves. In other words, Mr./Ms. YTG, help these poor lost people by using the facility for which it was intended. Maybe, just maybe, the local 1st nations organizations can help out with the expenses.

Up 38 Down 7

Yukonblonde on Aug 14, 2019 at 1:00 am

Health and social is far too dysfunctional a department, where everyone is either too terrified or too beaten down to actually perform their jobs with any sort of integrity or challenge the directors’ and politicians on their ill thought out ideas. There will also be zero accountability for the money they spend (waste).

I do not have any faith in H&S or Yukon government being able to resolve this issue.

While the City can’t (or won’t) do anything - kudos to them for complaining so much that the public finally got a response from Minister Frost on something.

Up 44 Down 7

drum on Aug 13, 2019 at 6:32 pm

I agree with JC.
If I was Duffys and Alpine Bakery I would sue City and YG for loss of revenue. People (including tourists) are sick of seeing fights, sex, intoxicated people staggering around, drunks threatening people trying to go into businesses in the area. They even have chairs outside the "Homeless Shelter" all day drinking alcohol and doing drugs and scaring anyone who lives in the area. This has to be fixed - NOW.

Up 10 Down 44

Same old, same old on Aug 13, 2019 at 6:19 pm

I looked at the story, I looked at the comments from the same old key board warriors. Even though your ancestors are largely responsible for what you see on fourth, you want the government to just deal with those people, throw them all in jail, round them all up and stick them somewhere. This mess is your doing, nobody else's, the blood is on your hands.

Up 38 Down 6

Vaca on Aug 13, 2019 at 6:03 pm

That place is an all inclusive resort and 4th ave is the beach.

Up 27 Down 6

Groucho d'North on Aug 13, 2019 at 5:13 pm

This is like watching a documentary on the Peter Principle,

The Peter Principle is an observation that the tendency in most organizational hierarchies, such as that of a government, is for every employee and manager to rise in the hierarchy through promotion until they reach a level of respective incompetence.
- Wikipedia

Up 19 Down 5

Doug Wright on Aug 13, 2019 at 12:51 pm

Dear Snowman - This is exactly why the governments need criticism and to be challenged at every turn!
Because politics create chaos in public service. This is well-known and is a reason why politics are supposed to be kept out of the civil service, the administration of justice etc.

Because it does not and cannot work. This is a lesson that is repeatedly unlearned every 4-5 years in the Yukon. But still... Your obligation does not end at the ballot box. Democracy takes ongoing and persistent action by the electorate. Otherwise, suffer the stupidity of such things as the Shelter...

Up 54 Down 13

Edith Barry on Aug 13, 2019 at 11:29 am

@ JC - I can only agree with your suggestions.

Mrs. Frost you want to design an outdoor space? Are you serious? Where????
Oh wait, in the back alley, in the middle of 4th Ave., on the sidewalk or do you plan to buy out Duffy's? Obviously you didn't visit the "Wellness Centre" consciously or you would have noticed THERE IS NO ADDITIONAL OUTDOOR SPACE!!!

Another promise for an announcement by the end of summer???
Maybe do us a favor and simply resign together with your minions.

Up 49 Down 13

Max Mack on Aug 13, 2019 at 10:14 am

These problems have become greatly amplified after Frost ditched the Salvation Army in favour of throwing money at her preferred NGOs.
Whatever vision Frost has is clearly not working and throwing even more resources at the problem will not fix it.

Up 61 Down 10

Dave on Aug 13, 2019 at 8:57 am

I wonder who the lucky EMS person is that’s going to draw the short straw on that idea? One EMS attendant working alone in that environment sounds as ridiculous as anything else YG has come up with so far. These politicians and senior bureaucrats create problems and then just band aid the hell out of things trying to fix and cover the mistakes that never should have happened in the first place. Pauline Frost needs to go hat in hand back to the Salvation Army who actually knows how to run a shelter and admit YG and the politicians royally messed up by thinking they could somehow do better and beg Sally Ann to take back over the place.

Up 38 Down 11

Rachel Bell on Aug 13, 2019 at 12:53 am

My fiance and I would go there on a regular basis to meets friends and have lunch. Now we won't even go there if we're starving. Hopefully, someone does something soon.

Up 61 Down 7

Dar Murphy on Aug 12, 2019 at 11:36 pm

It's like Whitehorse has its very own East Hasting Street now.

Up 53 Down 10

Yukoner on Aug 12, 2019 at 10:11 pm

I was driving by 4th last week and a man ran out in front of my car. I hit the breaks. He stopped in front of my car and was licking his lips and making sexual hand actions at me. I was scared he was going to try and open the car doors, so I locked them quickly. My baby was in the car seat in the back. I was pretty frazzled and upset by the whole thing. I now avoid driving on that street altogether.

Up 24 Down 11

Don Trump on Aug 12, 2019 at 9:35 pm

I think the measures announced may help.
Think many people have seen an ugliness that they hope can be fixed.

This may take some time and additional measures will be required.
Think many people are disappointed with the city trumping a bylaw to force a business to remove a railing.

Up 44 Down 6

North_of_60 on Aug 12, 2019 at 6:27 pm

I'm willing to see if their 'be nice' measures solves the problem of public drunk and disorderly behavior. However if we don't see quick and lasting change then get tough, round 'em up, and stick 'em in the unused YOF to dry out.

Up 47 Down 10

Yukoner on Aug 12, 2019 at 6:19 pm

“We don’t really have the ability to address it individually as a council as far as resource and mandate,” Curtis said.

So what IS in the council's mandate then? Because my RV parked 3 feet too far into my yard frontage (while still on my driveway and on my property) sure seems to be in the council's "mandate".

Up 51 Down 13

JC on Aug 12, 2019 at 4:18 pm

Shut the facility down, and build a centre on the outskirts of the City. Send others back to their home communities and the Government can deal with them there. Set up special programs for them there to help them escape from their problems ie, alcohol, drugs etc. As long they are here, they will never amount to anything.

Up 51 Down 13

Liberals on full damage control on Aug 12, 2019 at 4:00 pm

The Liberals are on full on damage control for a problem they created. I read Frost's letter and it had a bunch of touchy feely mumbo jumbo along with ideas like day trips for residents! ahh our tax dollars hard at work.

Up 45 Down 8

Yoda on Aug 12, 2019 at 3:46 pm

A 'Block Watch patrol'? What a farce.

It's well documented what goes on there, what, exactly will a patrol do?

Up 36 Down 9

Thomas Brewer on Aug 12, 2019 at 3:45 pm

I wonder if they'll take the award back....

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