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'This is what Yellowknife needs'
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The fact those living on the streets now have somewhere to go, rest, warm up, and get something to eat, had some of the homeless population moved to tears.
"November 16, on this day – this is the greatest day for the homeless people," said Kelvin Bonnetrouge, a man nearly completely blind, who lives on the streets of Yellowknife.
A tear rolled down his cheek and his voice cracked as he said he was not always homeless, and is happy to again have some of the basic luxuries the rest of us take for granted.
"We can eat, cook our own food, you know," said Bonnetrouge.
Lydia Bardak, city councillor and social advocate, said the biggest crowd arrived first thing in the morning.
"We've had tons (of people stop by). There were 20 people in here before 9 o' clock this morning," said Bardak.
She said some were in disbelief that the shelter would be open for them from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., seven days a week.
Eugene Foisy, one of the workers there, said there was lots for the homeless population to enjoy.
"They were enjoying the coffee, the hot chocolate. Tree of Peace brought over some hot dogs, so people were chomping down," said Foisy.
Though the shelter is slated for a grand opening on Nov. 26, Foisy said the reason they opened early was simple – "Because they needed it."
"(The homeless) don't have anywhere to go and it's starting to get really cold out, so no matter what, we were opening our doors today," said Foisy.
"With no electricity we still would have had them open."
The shelter – located on 52 Street across from the Capitol Theatre – is still waiting for things like books and magazines to arrive, phone lines to be put in and some more electrical work to be done, but the fact it opened up anyways was much appreciated by the people it is intended to serve.
"I came in here this morning and I took a look around, and this is awesome. This is what Yellowknife needs," said Buddy Essery.
"There are a lot of people standing around out in the cold with no place to go.
"I'm fortunate enough I have a place in the bush I stay, but I often think about all these people, all my friends here. Nobody's different from anybody else, and they need a place to sit down and relax, and this is a perfect place."
There are several leather couches, as well as some folding chairs, and tables.
Bardak said the leather couches were vital as they are easy to quickly wipe clean.
"We're looking for some coffee tables, some smaller tables where four people could sit," said Bardak, adding donations of movies, books, board games, and especially inspirational or educational videos would be appreciated.