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City councillor wants day shelter moved
GNWT in talks with current operator over contract that expires Sept. 30

Shane Magee
Northern News Services
Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The contract for the Safe Harbour Day Shelter is set to expire and if one city councillor has his way it won't continue in its current location.

The Safe Harbour Day Shelter on the corner of 51 Avenue and 49 Street provides a space for homeless people to stay while other shelters are closed during the day.

The location of the shelter across from the downtown liquor store has been controversial since it was revealed in 2014. The day shelter was previously run by the John Howard Society in a building on 51 Street but the NWT Disabilities Council took over when it moved to its current space. The day shelter opened in 2009 for what was to be a pilot project.

Coun. Adrian Bell has proposed council consider doubling city funding to the shelter next year, bringing it to $100,000 per year, but he has one request.

"I think it needs to be moved," he said.

With the contract expiring next month, he said an extension would be acceptable to give time to find a new location. He suggested it should be moved somewhere on the periphery of downtown.

"Without a doubt, the day shelter is an essential service," Bell said.

He's heard complaints from residents of Northern Heights as well as business people downtown about the current location.

"They say there's been a lot of negative spin-off activity - intoxicated individuals, litter and various other problems. As well as drinking in public," Bell said in an Aug. 24 interview with Yellowknifer.

He added in larger cities, a facility like the day shelter would be subject to input by city council. Bell said the 51 Street location also prompted complaints at the time.

The territorial government recently began talks with the NWT Disabilities Council about what comes next. The contract expires Sept. 30, although there is a clause for a one-year renewal up to three times, meaning the council could run the shelter for three more years in the space.

NWT Disabilities Council executive director Denise McKee stated in an e-mail Aug. 24 there is no definitive answer about what takes place as the deadline approaches but suggested an update could come soon. The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority, which absorbed the Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority at the start of the month, is responsible for the day shelter contract.

"Obviously we need to have some solution here before it starts getting colder. We're working toward that," said Robert Tordiff with the authority in an interview last week prior to the start of discussions.

He said it would be premature to say whether or not the contract would be extended at the time of the interview.

"We have to confirm with the contractor whether (an extension) is a possibility, whether there is an interest in it," he said.

Asked if an extension is desired, he said the authority knows it's a critical service.

"We know that the service is needed," Tordiff said. "It's important to understand that we're providing an important service for the population and it's part of a broader approach to services."

Les Harrison, who had been CEO of the Yellowknife health authority, attended a meeting early last month of the Northern Heights condo board, where complaints about the day shelter and its users were raised by residents of the 49 Street building.

Harrison was not made available by the Department of Health and Social Services for an interview about the meeting, although Tordiff said he had been told about what occurred.

Some residents expressed concern about how their property values have been affected, according to at least one person who attended the meeting.

"I think by and large folks were understanding about the nature and the need of the shelter ... I think it's fair to say there's an understanding, a respect for the concerns that the condo corporation has expressed," Tordiff said.

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