Rockhill fire: After $200,000 in support, YWCA looks to future

A view of the burned-out Rockhill apartment complex in October 2018
A view of the burned-out Rockhill apartment complex in October 2018. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

The YWCA says the future of its housing program is unclear as it thanked Yellowknife’s residents and businesses for almost $200,000 in support since a major fire at the start of October.

The fire, at the city’s Rockhill transitional housing complex – which doubled as the headquarters of YWCA NWT – gutted much of the building and made 87 people homeless.

In a feat of collaboration and generosity, all 87 were rehoused on the same day as the fire.

Since then, the YWCA says it has received $93,300 in online cash donations through Canada Helps; $74,000 in other cash donations from individuals and businesses; and $27,800 in territorial government support.



The figure does not include in-kind support, which has ranged from moving companies donating their time through to clothing drives, furniture donations, and provision of household goods, alongside offers of office space for the YWCA itself.

However, the longer-term future of the YWCA supported housing is uncertain because it relied on rental revenue from Rockhill to fund much of its housing operation.

“The YWCA has provided support to families through the transitional housing program for many years, and we’ve seen a lot of success through the program,” said Lyda Fuller, the YWCA NWT’s executive director, in a news release on Tuesday.

“Since the fire, we’ve had a lot of people at the table who want to see supportive housing continue to help families, and we’ve had productive discussions with government about the future of the housing program.



“We’ll continue to advocate for affordable, supported housing for vulnerable families.”

‘Families are safe’

The news release said the YWCA was now in “a different position” following the loss of its Rockhill rental revenue stream.

“Discussions are ongoing between the YWCA and various levels of government to determine the best solutions to move forward with a supported transitional housing model,” it continued.

Rockhill’s tenants were charged rent “well below market value,” the YWCA said, adding it also earned revenue by allowing other YWCA programs to use space inside Rockhill, and by using laundry and vending machine revenue to pay housing staff and program costs.

Providing new figures on the building’s occupancy, the YWCA said 30 of Rockhill’s 32 rentable units were occupied at the time of the fire. Previously, the building had been reported full at the time.

“A total of 87 people, mostly children, were displaced by the fire,” said the YWCA. “Family sizes ranged from single women to families with between one to six children.”

Twenty-three families moved into YWCA-supported market housing elsewhere in Yellowknife; two were relocated to other YWCA facilities; and one moved into another social housing unit.

Fuller continued: “The outpouring of support from the community has been incredible and everyone has really rallied around the YWCA to help us make sure families are safe, secure, and have the essentials they need to move forward after losing everything in the devastating fire.

“It is wonderful to see the commitment to our YWCA and its recovery through to stability. Our staff feel supported and appreciated, and I was impressed since the day of the fire how everyone rallied around us. I can’t thank everyone enough.”