The Yellowknife Women’s Society hopes to temporarily relocate its shelter services for about 20 women to the former site of the downtown Safe Harbour day shelter.
The society’s shelter on Franklin Avenue is being extensively renovated, meaning temporary accommodation must be found for the people living there.
Bree Denning, executive director of the society, hopes construction at the Franklin Avenue site will begin by mid-August.
Denning said the only suitable space in which to create a temporary shelter during that work appears to be the former Safe Harbour building on 49 Street.
That building has stood empty since operations were relocated to a joint day shelter and sobering centre on 50 Street in September last year.
The women’s society plans to lease the 49 Street building for four months, saying only minor changes are needed to make it fit for purpose.
“We have to put in a shower and a smoke detector system – it has a sprinkler system but it’s not connected to smoke detectors,” said Denning.
“It’s definitely in decent shape and functional so it’s going to meet our needs.”
Denning expects about 20 women to use the temporary shelter downtown, including some who call the current facility home and others who use it only in emergencies.
As with the society’s separate plan to turn the Arnica Inn into transitional housing, Denning says she sent 125 letters to neighbours in the area of the Safe Harbour building, including residents of the Northern Heights condo complex, and held a public meeting on July 11.
Some neighbours told Denning they are worried about the shelter’s proximity to the liquor store and day shelter.
“What we may do is have a bit more security,” said Denning, “or staff in place to make sure that the issues happening in and around the day shelter don’t become issues happening in and around our temporary shelter.”
Denning’s preference is for more staff rather than a security guard.
“If it does become an issue and we can’t address it by talking with folks, then we might have to go that route [of a guard],” she said. “It is not what we want to start with, and not the ideal situation.”
Yellowknife’s mayor, Rebecca Alty, said there have been no complaints from neighbours at the women’s shelter’s current location.
“Some folks may think this is another day shelter or drop-in centre, whereas it is quite different,” Alty told Cabin Radio’s Lunchtime News.
The society’s plan to use the Safe Harbour building will go before the mayor and councillors on Monday, as it requires a conditionally permitted use of the building as a special care facility.