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Bailey House won't take drunks off the streets

Cara Loverock
Northern News Services
Published Friday, June 13, 2008

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Donald Berens lives out of a bag and suffers from a chronic lung disease which requires him to have portable oxygen much of the time.

He was hoping to get a spot in Bailey House, the transitional home for men the city hopes to have open in the coming months.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Donald Berens, shown here with his puffers needed for a cronic lung illness, is homeless and was hoping to live at the city's Bailey House. As an alcoholic, he did not qualify for the transitional men's home. - Cara Loverock/ NNSL Photo

But due to his ongoing drinking, Berens has been told he does not qualify for Bailey House and his only option is the Salvation Army emergency shelter.

"I'm desperate, very desperate," said Berens. "I need a place to stay. There's no hospice here."

Berens said if he had a permanent home, instead of the Salvation Army's emergency shelter, he would be able to quit drinking.

"They're not even giving me a chance," he said.

Dayle Handy, homelessness co-ordinator with the City of Yellowknife, said people need to realize that Bailey House is a transitional home and is for men who are already clean and sober and making positive changes in their lives.

She said Bailey House may not take homeless men off the streets, as they may not be ready for transitional housing.

"Men that are on the street and very active in addictions ... and generally accessing the emergency shelter are probably not going to be the men that would choose to live in Bailey House," said Handy. "There are a lot of people that have gone through treatment centres that are coming out of jail that have been clean and sober for some time."

She said there is a concern that admitting someone who is still an addict could hurt other men who are living there and struggling to stay clean.

"A lot of the men have come through addiction and trying to combat addiction, and if you get somebody in there who is active in addiction it affects the whole building," said Handy.

There is no opening date scheduled yet, but plans are to have a grand opening in early fall.

Ravan Bedingfield of the Salvation Army, house co-ordinator for Bailey House, said so far there have been 10 to 15 applicants for the transitional home while there are 32 rooms in the building.

Bedingfield said applications are available for anyone and have been made available to prison inmates who will be released soon and have nowhere to go.

After the application is submitted, there is an interview session and everything goes to an admissions committee that decides if the individual is suited to Bailey House.

"There are criteria," she said. "The shelter has productive choice bunks for people who want to eventually transfer into Bailey House. It's a stepping stone system. It's not directly for homeless people. There is rent. It's a structured apartment building."