Yellowknife women's shelter to be revamped

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The Yellowknife Women's Society's emergency shelter is to be upgraded and renovated through a partnership between the NWT Housing Corporation and a diamond mine.

The housing corporation, which owns the Franklin Avenue building, is contributing $350,000. Anglo American – owner of De Beers, which operates the NWT's Gahcho Kué mine – will provide $250,000 through a charitable foundation alongside a project manager.

However, while renovation work is due to begin this month, the women's society still hasn't found temporary accommodation for the shelter's occupants – who must move out during construction.

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"We're currently looking at where the women will go. I don't believe we have a location as of yet. It's fairly urgent," said Monique Robitaille of the Yellowknife Women's Society.

Once accommodation is found, demolition of some of the existing building's interior is scheduled for later this month.

The building will then be extensively modified and refitted before a planned inspection in September and opening in October, according to a briefing document issued at a ceremony marking the partnership on Thursday.

The society has operated an emergency shelter for women since 2005. More than 200 women used the building's services last year, the society said.

Rob Coolen, a project superintendent at the Gahcho Kué mine, will oversee the renovation work.

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"There are a lot of similarities," he said. "I'm very proud and happy to be chosen, that I get to support the community and contribute that way.

"We do want to move in by the end of September. The shorter the period of time that we can offset the people impacted, that's really important to us. We're trying to accelerate it as much as we can."

On-site clinic

The new-look building will feature 16 single-occupancy bedrooms alongside a remodelled communal area – designed to provide privacy without socially isolating people.

When finished, the building's new floor plan should provide space for up to 10 more women to stay there each night, the society said.

Residents will be able to access 24-hour staff support, life skills training, and medical care in an on-site clinic.

"The renovations will allow women to rent rooms, paying rent using income support that staff will help them access," read the briefing document.

"This will help recipients build a rental and credit history and provide additional income for the Yellowknife Women's Society."

Some remodelling work on basement suites at the building began last year.

Shauna Morgan, a member of the Yellowknife Women's Society board and a city councillor, told Cabin Radio: "The women will be able to have stable, secure housing – not just a mat on a floor somewhere – while also having the 24-7 supports that they need.

"There are still gaps in the housing spectrum, but this is one more step toward us providing all the housing options we need in this city."

The minister responsible for housing, Alfred Moses, said: "This project is an exciting example of how a corporate citizen can work with government and other partners to help make our community a better place to call home."